The Republican Party has been doing a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing since the presidential election. Half the conservative columnists and bloggers say the GOP lost because it overemphasized social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The other half says the party didn’t emphasize them enough. And everyone denounces Project ORCA, the campaign’s attempt to turn out voters via technology.
But I’ve got a suggestion for cutting short the GOP angst: Sarah Palin for president in 2016.
You think I’m joking? Think again.
In 2008, Palin, running as my party’s vice presidential candidate, was widely supposed to have cost John McCain the election. But that wasn’t so. A national exit poll conducted by CNN asked voters whether Palin was a factor in their voting. Of those who said yes, 56 percent voted for McCain versus 43 percent for Barack Obama.
Furthermore, Mitt Romney, the GOP’s anointed contender this year, got almost a million fewer votes than McCain did in 2008. (Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, although winning re-election, lost far more voters than the Republicans, with nearly 7 million fewer voters checking his name on their ballots than did in 2008).
Millions of Americans didn’t much care for Obama and his Obamacare spending blowout, but they didn’t feel like voting for Romney either. Some said that Romney didn’t resonate with recession-hit blue-collar folks in swing states because he “looked like the boss who outsourced their jobs,” as one blog commenter quipped.
Gabriel Malor, writing for the New York Daily News’ blog, pinpointed another reason: By focusing his campaign mostly on serious economic and political issues such as the national debt and tax incentives, Romney failed to take into account the fact that large segments of the electorate neither know nor care much about serious economic and political issues. What they — a group sometimes euphemistically called “uninformed voters” — do know and care about are the tugs on their emotions, fears, revulsions and heart strings provided by hours and hours of uninterrupted television watching.
The Democrats understood how to reach that constituency. When a barrage of Obama campaign TV ads told them that the GOP wanted to take away their contraceptives or that Bain Capital killed someone’s wife, they took notice. When Obama strolled the hurricane-stricken beaches of New Jersey in his bomber jacket, they were snowed. As Malor put it, Obama won on “binders, Big Bird, birth control and blame Bush.”
Palin can more than keep up with the Democrats in appealing to voters’ emotions. Hardly anyone could be more blue collar than Palin, out on the fishing boat with her hunky blue-collar husband, Todd. Palin is “View”-ready, she’s “Ellen”-ready, she’s Kelly-and-Michael-ready.
A Palin “war against women”? Hah! Not only is she a woman, she’s got a single-mom daughter, Bristol, to help with the swelling single-mom demographic. On social issues, Palin, unlike Romney, has been absolutely consistent. And let’s remember that most Americans, whatever their view of choice, disapprove of most abortions.
Gay marriage? Palin opposes it. But she is also a strong advocate of states’ rights, and I’m betting she’d be fine with letting states and their voters grapple with the issue on their own. Remember that all of America didn’t swing toward approval of gay marriage on Nov. 6. Three reliably blue states and their voters did. If she were smart, Palin would recruit a member of her impressive gay fanboy base — yes, she has one — to help run her campaign. I nominate Kevin DuJan of the widely read gay conservative blog HillBuzz, a Palin stalwart since 2008.
Palin’s son Track is an Iraq war veteran, so she can be proudly patriotic without being labeled another George W. Bush, looking to do aggressive nation-building. She seems aware there is only one nation in need of building right now: America.
Furthermore, looks count in politics, and Palin at age 48, has it all over her possible competition, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will be 69 by Election Day 2016 and who let someone talk her into adopting the flowing blond locks of a college student, making her look like Brunnhilde in a small-town Wagner production. Men love Sarah Palin, and she loves men.
She’s tough as nails too. After Election 2008, she was supposed to have been through. This year eight of the 14 GOP candidates Palin endorsed for Congress won election or re-election, including tea party favorite Ted Cruz for a Senate seat in Texas.
Sure, there is going to be never-ending nastiness from the left, but she’s already lived through that once. Katie Couric? A has-been. Tina Fey? Her shtick was already wearing thin in 2008.
There are also the snooty East Coast Republican intellectual types, such as Peggy Noonan, who look down their noses at a woman who doesn’t shop at Neiman Marcus and didn’t attend an Ivy League university. But Peggy made a fool of herself calling the election for Romney on Nov. 5. Who’s going to care what she and her ilk have to say next time?
Some Republicans will say Palin has too much baggage from 2008, and we need to look for a new Sarah Palin. But I don’t see what’s wrong with the one we’ve got. Ever since the 1990s, Republicans have been looking for the next Ronald Reagan. Reagan is now revered in bipartisan circles, but during his presidency he was, like Palin, ridiculed by liberals. They cited “Bedtime for Bonzo” and sneered at his no-name college degree.
Sarah Palin is the new Ronald Reagan: charming and affable and unwilling to back down if she’s right. I can’t see what’s wrong with that.
• Allen writes frequently about feminism, politics and religion.