In case you weren’t riveted to C-SPAN’s coverage of the “Value Voters Summit” this past weekend, you might have missed the news that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence came in first in their straw poll for president in 2012. Sarah Palin came in fifth, behind such luminaries as Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. I guess that tells you what this particular right-wing gathering thought of Ms. Palin; she’s great on the stump, but even they don’t want her to run for president. Or at least they’d rather have a white guy from Indiana.
It’s interesting to note that the most prominent spokespeople for the Tea Party have been women: Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Sharron Angle, and now Christine O’Donnell. They’re outspoken, occasionally charismatic and fun to watch as they give speeches, but when it comes to actually running for president or attaining a real leadership role in the default party of choice, none of them will be given any real power. This is, after all, not a group known to be sympathetic to feminism, at least in the way that most people define it. The most mileage they can get out of them is by trying to blunt the criticism from the left by saying, “Hey, we have women in positions of power, too,” or thinking that by running women as candidates, it makes it hard for people to criticize them without coming across as hypocritical misogynists, the same way they say it’s hard to criticize President Obama without being called a racist. Actually, no, it’s not. It’s quite easy to criticize a candidate for their views and their extremist statements without bringing race or genitalia into the equation. It’s just that a lot of conservatives can’t get past the exteriors, which is where they get into trouble.
There’s no doubt that Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are energetic and that the Tea Party folk are delighted to have them out there drawing the crowds and the media attention. But the likelihood of them actually achieving serious support from the people with the money who run the show and who will choose their nominee in 2012 is pretty small.