Dana Milbank has a column in the Washington Post about Sarah Palin — remember her?
Sarah Palin was Trump before Trump. Can she be Trump after Trump?
(At least that’s what she thinks.)
The former Alaska governor, 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, reality TV personality and human gaffe machine is teasing the possibility of challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s Republican Senate primary next year. “If God wants me to do it I will,” she told New Apostolic Reformation movement leader Ché Ahn, as first reported by Right Wing Watch.
Hopefully, for Palin’s sake, this is a different God from the one she appealed to in ’08 when she put the election “in God’s hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4.” She has also said it was God’s will to fight the Iraq war, build a gas pipeline, and for her to skip an important speech in 2011: “I had nothing to wear, and God knew that, too.”
The more immediate obstacles to Palin’s ambition, though, are not in the Heavens but here on Earth.
Will Tina Fey revive her Palin impression? (“I can see Russia from my house!”) Has Alaska moved on? Murkowski already has a (Trump-backed) challenger, and Palin has been spending a lot of time in the far southern part of Alaska — namely, Arizona. And has the party moved on? Palin captivated the Republican base in 2008 with her unique blend of ignorance, insults and winks at political violence. But such attributes no longer make her a standout in the GOP.
She floated a Senate challenge to Murkowski last fall, and nobody much noticed. Will they care now? Doubtful. Palin herself has acknowledged that people think of her as a “has been.” And there’s a specific reason for that. When she burst onto the national stage 13 summers ago, she was on the cutting edge of crazy. But the problem with launching a crazy contest is that, once started, it never ends: There’s always somebody willing to take things up a notch.
Trump supplanted Palin, and now there are 147 insurrectionist Republicans in Congress and countless would-be authoritarians in state governments. QAnon’s Marjorie Taylor Greene holds pole position today, and Palin is back in the pack. What was crazy in ’08 is now the Republican norm.
The difference between now and then is that there are lives at stake. People are dying because of the normalized nutsery, not just from politicizing a pandemic, but from guns and flagpoles used as battering rams. Sarah Palin always had a goofy edge to her shtick; Trump and his goons are fomenting mayhem with an intensity that rivals the street gangs of various political factions usually associated with religious zeal or third-world despots… or, to skate close to Godwin’s Law, the brown shirts.
Sarah Palin herself may have been an outlier in 2008; a one-off. Now she’s more like previews of coming attractions.