AT LONG LAST, HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY?

In the latter half of the 19th Century it was common for presidential candidates to engage in what we call "Front Porch Campaigning." In short, they didn't campaign at all. They stayed home, perhaps emerging onto their porch (hence the name) to speak with the media for a few minutes once or twice per week. Convention delegates and party bigshots would bring important people (read: the wealthy) to the candidate's home instead of the candidate hitting the road and holding fund raisers.

There were several reasons for this, some of them practical. During the party-dominated era of nominating conventions before the advent of primaries, the candidate was nearly an afterthought. The party didn't much care who it nominated so long as he was, as a delegate said of Rutherford Hayes, "present (at the convention) and not considered overly obnoxious." Accordingly no one really cared what the candidate had to say. Elections were affairs of dubious honesty during that era, with party loyalties and voting behavior driven by a delicious stew of patronage, graft, fraud, and naked threats of violence. The candidate was a warm body, hence our post-Civil War string of anonymous bearded Ohioans and upstate New Yorkers in the White House.

The other reason, and the one that the parties were much more vocal about at the time, is that it was considered crass for candidates to do something as low-brow as campaign. It was seen as shameless groveling for votes, entirely unbecoming of such a high office. Over time, of course, this "taboo" fell by the wayside as more candidates began relying on their oratory (William Jennings Bryan and Teddy Roosevelt, for example) and populist appeals to build a base of support.

Today we'd be shocked if a candidate didn't campaign actively, but we still have certain expectations about how they should campaign. There is a level of decorum or dignity that we expect. It doesn't surprise anyone to see McCain or Obama on a talk show in a suit, maybe cracking a few jokes to emphasize their oneness with the common man, but it would be surprising to see them dressed in overalls (no t-shirt, of course) wrestling in pig shit to try to win a few more rural votes. Some things – participating in a pro wrestling match, taking pies in the face on D-list TV talk shows, or telling fart jokes on the local Morning Zoo radio show, perhaps – are just "beneath" a presidential candidate.

You know where this is going.

"Sarah Palin's Alaska", despite the premiere bringing in good ratings for a cable reality show, is indicative of a candidate who is entirely unconcerned about toeing the line between campaigning and a cinema vérité Three Stooges performance. For someone seriously contemplating a 2012 presidential run, the extent to which Palin has turned herself into a reality TV character is nothing short of incredible. Andrew Sullivan recently declared her "The Republican Snooki" and noted that the two are identical inasmuch as "The only thing that can destroy her is ignoring her." But people will never stop paying attention to her because there is no depth to which she will not stoop for more attention.

Right-wing columnist Jennifer Braceras calls this new paroxysm of exhibitionism on Palin's part "flippin' embarrassing", to quote the Grizzly herself. Now that she is reduced to parading her children around on camera for sympathy and spouting catchphrases like some attention-hungry hack contestant on Project Runway, it is not clear how Palin expects anyone (except for the 15% of the country that already idolizes her and always will) to take her seriously. This new performance is one step up from appearing in the center ring at Barnum & Bailey with a ball on her nose. She doesn't need a campaign manager, she needs an organ grinder.

We know that Palin is an attention whore. All politicians are. But there are unspoken limits. One must "look presidential", which is defined as Potter Stewart defined obscenity – no one can explain it but we know it when we see it. This ain't it. This is the 15th minute of fame for a flavor-of-the-minute singer. It is the last grasp at a paycheck from a washed-up soap opera star. It is KISS on its 10th reunion tour too many. It is Police Academy 6. It is Jerry Rice trying out for the Broncos when everyone on the planet except him could tell he was finished.

When Braceras asks in her column, "Isn’t such low-brow exhibitionism beneath the dignity of a former governor and potential presidential candidate?" she misses the point by a wide margin. Palin is a potential presidential candidate only in her own mind at this point. She and Snooki are equally likely to be living in the White House in the near future. After willingly suspending herself over (and her family) over the dunk tank full of sewage at the reality TV carnival, everyone except Palin herself realizes that her next gig is more likely to involve hawking fishing gear on QVC than delivering State of the Union addresses.

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41 Responses to “AT LONG LAST, HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY?”

  1. Noskilz Says:

    There's also the notion that she has no intention of actually running because flirting with the idea and playing around with the media provide lots of perks without having to actually accomplish anything or expose her to the kind of scrutiny running for office would.

    I think it was Josh Marshal at TPM who described her as a "grifter" and that does seem like an apt description. So perhaps we'll be seeing infomercials for Mama Grizzly outdoor gear once people work out there's no chance of her going the hassle of running for office when there are easier ways to separate a sucker from his money.

    Resigning the govenorship for no obviously compelling reason midway through seems like it ought to be a career-ender politically. And it's not as if she's done a lot to improve the impression made during the 2008 campaign.

    Or maybe I'm just hoping really hard that President Palin is something that can't actually come to pass.

  2. Scott Says:

    By comparing Palin to Police Academy 6, are you implying that there will be a more egregious Sarah Palin event yet to come that can be compared to Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow?

    If so, may God have mercy on all of our souls.

  3. Cheez Whiz Says:

    You touch on the real state of things with your "15% of the country that already idolizes her and always will". I'm convinced she's running for Vice President, and her ticket is that 15% (more like 23% sadly) in her pocket that she will deliver to whoever puts her on the ticket. Think Dan Quayle and his "attack" on the fictional Murphy Brown for fictionally wanting to have a fictional child without a fictional husband. A Vice President can get away with saying just about any stupid thing you can imagine, their job is to throw chunks of raw meat into the pit and keep the rubes entertained. Think about it, Vice is the perfect job for the Grifter. Massive perks and absolutely no responsibility.

  4. troutsky Says:

    Ronald Reagan co-starred in a movie with a monkey. I think you missed the shift to Spectacular Politics and way over-estimate the discrimination of the general public.

  5. ladiesbane Says:

    I don't know if you were trying to avoid the minefield of sexism (either way: well done) but S. Palin's physical appearance is an enormous part of her charisma to the Right. It was a good move to adopt the diction of Edie McClurg's character from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, too, but if she resembled Phyllis Schlafly, she'd have gone nowhere. (I have nothing against flashy packaging, but if the container is empty, it's a ripoff.) Was the transition to visual assessment of politicians truly the televised Nixon-Kennedy debate? Or is that a popular misconception?

  6. Bette Noir Says:

    Sarahcuda, like other notables in the grand old tradition of American Political Exceptionalism (think Joe McCarthy, Boss Tweed, Barry Goldwater, Jim Bunning, Blago) serve a useful, albeit addled purpose by demonstrating the outer limits of political discourse, thereby assisting 85% of the electorate to cleave to relatively sane, though admittedly more boring choices to represent us.

  7. sluggo Says:

    That 15% may be enough to get her nominated. Especially if the Republican field has no clear front runner. A couple of early primary wins and the momentum will build and build. I won't be surprised if she wins the Republican nomination. If she wins the general election; well that is just to horrible to imagine.

  8. bikelib Says:

    She has no intention of running in 2012; or any year for that matter. Campaigning for office is long hours of actual work. She makes much more $$ doing what she's been doing.

  9. displaced Capitalist Says:

    Awwwwright!!!! We're one step closer to electing pr0n stars!! YEAH!

  10. bpasinko Says:

    While the reward for running is pretty huge is it worth the risk of looking like a fool (again) in the debates? It's not like she's done much to improve herself as a candidate.

    She could theoretically get to the promised land (or be vice of it), but it seems like the more likely result, losing, could hurt her image a lot.

    Is her 15% support so strong that if she gets ripped a new one they'll still support her?

    Any chance she runs for senate in the near future in hopes for reaching the white house at a later date?

  11. Elder Futhark Says:

    Nah. She's latched on to the big money teat like a lamprey eel, and will continue way, way past market saturation. Think the restaurant takeover scene in Goodfellas.

    No fucking way she's giving up the golden parachute to run for anything. She's like that fuckface you know who finds the secret upper-left corner niche in the corporate bureaucracy who has no responsibilty, earns a huge amount with zero effort, and never gets canned when the shitty projects they heartily endorse go south.

  12. Ben Says:

    She's positioning herself as the rural replacement/alternative to Anne Coulter – less city chique and more wholesome gun loving ass kicking. Her decision to step down from her govenorship after two years is more indicative of her realization that she could have more money and power (with fewer restrictions) by not being IN politics and instead being a spectacle OF politics. There are no longer any political aspirations for her – only a goal at maintaining favor, advertising for big business interests and otherwise increasing her profitability while minimizing her responsibility.

    The farce of her "Running in 2012" is just to keep people watching – by 2012 she'll have an excuse and she'll have found someone (actually electable) that she can put her efforts behind unhindered. She'll be able to be mean girl nice, be not restricted to following campaign rules, and otherwise she'll have enough catch phrases that she delivers the 15% regardless of whether she's on the ticket.

  13. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Given the inability of significant portions of the electorate to think critically about the consequences of their actions, I'd say that we'd better hope that QVC comes through with an offer that her bank account couldn't refuse.

  14. Monkey Business Says:

    As has been stated elsewhere, Palin won't run in 2012. It doesn't make sense. As an "outsider", she'll be free to do whatever she wants and play kingmaker. As a candidate, she's bound by rules and regulations, and an almost assured defeat in a general election against Obama would destroy her non-political aspirations.

    We expect our Presidents to represent the best in us as a country. Sarah Palin represents the worst. She's petty, mean, savvy without being smart, and the ultimate triumph of style over substance. Simply put, she doesn't pass any kind of test that we've established for what makes someone "Presidential".

  15. anotherbozo Says:

    Speaking of television as a reflection of America's mental age, I've been reading Menand's article in the last New Yorker: "…CBS broadcast, in prime time, "I Love Lucy," "Mr. Ed," "My Favorite Martian," "Gilligan's Island," "The Beverly Hillbillies," and "The Munsters," all of them about as dumb as they come, and all of them huge hits. From 1962 to 1964, fifty-seven million Americans tuned in to watch "The Beverly Hillbillies" every week." That was almost a third of the population.

    Never overestimate the American people, and popularity is popularity these days. Fred Thompson was a presidential contender. President Elly May is still a possibility.

  16. Da Moose Says:

    Her ego is too big to not throw her hat into the ring. Of course she's running for 2012. I, for one, am looking forward to the reality TV meetings of her cabinet in which she lets the audience vote for the political sacrificial lamb of the month. Between, The Biggest Loser and DWTS, this should round out my TV viewing for the week. We live in a new great society where experience is a detriment. Anybody can do anything. Having been inspired by Palin's success in this regard, I intend to perform open heart surgery on my next door neighbor after fixing his car. Friedman was right. We do live in a flat world, an intellectually flat world. Hooray for the masses! We can all be brilliant without knowing a damn thing.

  17. Andy Brown Says:

    I wish I could feel confidence about Palin's unelectability. I recall that when W was thrust onto the scene, a lot of people scoffed at the plausibility of the idea that this smirking, draft-dodging Yale-cowboy mediocrity, with his history of drunkeness and cocaine, and his unrelenting litany of business failure, could be taken seriously. But the media's capacity to foster amnesia and denial is astounding (Jon Stewart's clip archive notwithstanding). We may all stand appalled when in 2013 Palin strides forth to be fawned upon by whatever media exists by then.

  18. Ryan Says:

    Watching the previews (extended commercials, whatever you call them) for Palin's show, I was struck by the beauty of Alaska and the family's general gun-totin', snowmobilin', eek-a-moose-get-it! oddness. They're kind of perfect for that crazy TLC family reality-show lineup (the Duggers, the Roloffs, Kate + 8).

    I'd like to watch the show, I guess, because I have no idea what it's like to live in Alaska. I've never been there. And the whole Palin family is sort of adorably weird. I mean, they're adorably weird from a distance. Thousands of miles and a TV screen kind of distance. I'm not sure I want to encounter a Todd Palin in the wild. I wouldn't know what to do. Do you make a lot of noise to try to scare him off? Do you keep still and hope he can't see you like a T-Rex? Do you get out a book and start reading?) If Sarah Palin wasn't Sarah Palin, I'd kind of love the show. I think. I haven't watched it, nor do I plan to.

    I hope she simply goes away, but I don't think she will. Kate doesn't go away because her kids are still cute. The Duggers are basically Tribbles at this point. And there will always be another ginormous family or a family of Little People to fill an hour of television and sell car insurance and scented candles. Of course, very few of them have a chance to be vice president. At the very least, I hope Sarah gets trapped in that 'reality celebrity' box that the rest of them seem to be stuck in.

  19. I'm Just a Bill Says:

    & Then there is this quote from Willow that will no doubt be considered helpful…

    "You're running your mouth just to talk shit… Your such a faggot… Sorry that all you guys are jealous of my families success and you guys aren't goin to go anywhere with your lives."

  20. bpasinko Says:

    At least Willow has an account.

    The Obamas don't let their children use Facebook. Damn liberals trying to get their hands into everyones business. Just par for the course…

  21. truth=freedom Says:

    My biggest concern is that all of you who dismiss her chances are playing into her hand. @troutsky is right. There's no guarantee she'll miss the mark. All it'll take is the right turn of phrase to sucker in a large enough share of the electorate.

    And, you, Ed, should be more aware of this than the rest of us. It doesn't take a particularly large share of the electorate to get elected. 15% might be enough, especially if it's a three-way race. After all, we have regularly struggled to get 50% of the electorate to *vote*. If enough more of the people who say, "meh" to her stay home, we're proper f*cked.

  22. The Man, The Myth Says:

    Its sad but I have to disagree with Ed on the chances Sarah Palin runs for President too. I think that Mitty Romney will announce his intention to run in 2012 sometime early next year – meaning others (yes, including this crazy lady) will be tempted to start competing with him. I liked the quote from Monkey Business so much I'll repeat it here: "We expect our Presidents to represent the best in us as a country. Sarah Palin represents the worst. She's petty, mean, savvy without being smart, and the ultimate triumph of style over substance. Simply put, she doesn't pass any kind of test that we've established for what makes someone "Presidential"."

    As the team nihilist all I can argue is to say that I don't know what the hell "Presidential" means anymore because I don't know what anything means.

  23. ts46064 Says:

    @bpasinko
    "Is her 15% support so strong that if she gets ripped a new one they'll still support her?"

    Have you ever met a Palin Fan? They will just say the election was rigged by some liberal conspiracy.

  24. The Man, The Myth Says:

    Side note – look at the New York Times for a magazine profile of her. I'm torn on this – I haven't read any of it but every time a magazine writes about Palin it has something negative in it and the fans go: look at the elite liberal media picking on us again. I simply wish she would go away… long magazine profiles on Palin don't help with that.

  25. JohnR Says:

    Boy are you going to feel silly when she runs! As for the "debates", do you honestly expect that she won't be able to pull a fit over the biased liberal format and get a Palin-friendly appearance on Fox instead? Nobody ever went broke underestimating the [pick a quality] of the American people, you know, and after even just 2 more years of unrelenting Obamashing by the Serious People, I'd put the odds of a Palin victory (asuming she makes it through the primaries, which is a whole other question) at close to even. If she chose someone like Senator Droopy as her VP, that would probably clinch the deal – the mass orgasm by the Sensible Centrists would probably cause the Earth to wobble in its orbit for a second.

  26. sluggo Says:

    Putting the idiot in Idiocracy. Palin 2012

  27. Zeb Says:

    On the bright side, if she's elected we can expect her to stay in office for a maximum of 2 years before quitting to make more money…

    But then, that would leave us with President Bachmann

  28. acer Says:

    So much depends on the Teabagger House. Or actually the economy. If things bounce and the GOP spin machine successfully takes credit, the Great Teabagging Experiment was a winner. Either a new star emerges from Congress or Palin cashes in her TP investment. In that case, we have a problem.

    If things stay hopeless and Boner's troops act like spoiled children, sutting down the gov't and whatnot, nominating Palin from this cast of losers (assuming it's Palin, maybe Gingrich, and the defeated Class of '07) will reek of desparation, and I doubt the GOP would fully recover.

    Either way, Palin must be one of the weirdest outliers in US political history. At least supporting Reagan W or McCarthy or Wallace bespoke some sort of sociological convictions, if only rank bigotry and greed. Those guys weren't "famous for being famous." Que Sarah, on the other hand, isn't even a convincing "populist." Does one of her supporters have some idea how her administration might look? Anyone?

    Aside from parroting Rush like it's a loathsome homework assignment, she has no real agenda but endless capacity for public humiliation and absolute refusal to accept responsibility for anything. She's the living end of American politics AND celebrity.

  29. J. Dryden Says:

    We must always remember that decades before his election, the notion of "Ronald Reagan as President" would cause guffaws in polite circles around the country. (When that gag appeared in BACK TO THE FUTURE, it was funny because it was *true.*) He was an *actor*, a clownish, amiable dunce who wouldn't know his right foot from his left had Nancy not thought to put "R" and "L" on the appropriate heels. In short, his candidacy was every bit as laughable and sickening as we find Palin's.

    Sometimes America won't drink the Kool-aid. Dan Quayle. Robert Bork. But such exceptions are rare, and we're too often charmed by the qualities of a candidate that ought to repulse us, like Bush's folksy ignorance. We're that dangerous combination of 'stupid', 'ignorant', and 'proud to be stupid and ignorant' that makes people like Palin eminently electable not *despite* her flaws (and they are legion), but *because* of them.

    We elected an exceptionable individual in Obama. History suggests that after his term is up, be it in 2 or 6 years, we will swing the other way elect a "normal" person, in a country where "normal" = "buffoon." And I therefore see no reason why Palin's repulsive lust for the slack-jawed attention of the American public can't be spun into a positive. (Insert your preferred quotation from Jeremiah, Nietzsche, or Watchmen.)

  30. RF Says:

    Phuck-

    What a depressing litany of writings on the wall this comment thread is…

    I got nothing to add or refute, and neither will the USA; post 2012 PalinApocalypse-

  31. Ronbo Says:

    Yes, bigotry and hate are to be forgiven – if the person is a conservative. Everyone else must be held responsible. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree; I think we know where the clan came up with their bigotry. I wouldn't be suprised if the unmarried mother quit DWTS. It seems to be a characteristic of this mindset.

    "I'm so proud of my girls. They are just like me." What brand of evil would be proud of calling others "faggot"?

  32. Linda N Says:

    WELL SAID! I have no shame Palin. Now, when is the MSM going to do their real job and not just look for ratings and clicks.Interestingly the rest of the world sees Palin,a laughing stock, yet, the MSN thinks a ghost written tweet is mannar from heaven. Alas! where ever the Palins are, the standards are always lowered. Case in point,DWTS has now become walking with the non stars! Play the victim,lashout out with vile hatred, (bullying ) and the shameless gets rewarded, American Exceptionalism….yea not for me!

  33. Dave in Austin Says:

    It must be said, the real name for a "Mamma Grizzly" is a Sow….

  34. g Says:

    For those who compared her to W – don't forget, W wasn't an outsider candidate, he was very much an establishment choice. He did what he was told, he had Republican establishment connections and a Village-worthy heritage.

    Palin doesn't have establishment connections – oh, yes, I know she has a few big-money kingmakers on her side, but she hasn't won over the Republican establishment. And she's doing nothing to win them over, either.

    Her primary opponents will tear her apart and make her look a fool.Even if she prevails, she will leave behind her a trail of broken alliances, burned bridges, and enemies – and it won't be one-sided. With her highly tuned sense of resentment and overcompensation for an inferiority complex, she will turn against Republicans who opposed her, and turn them away.

    This is her history. She turns on her mentors. She blames others for her failure. She defies her handlers and then blames them for her own faults.

    If she runs, the Republican party will not support her. If she actually wins the candidacy – which I doubt – she will not bring the party together behind her.

    Even a consummate insider like John McCain had party establishment turning away from him after he chose her. On her own, she will drive more away.

  35. g Says:

    Coda – same with Reagan as with W. Reagan was considered a wacko, but he never turned on his party. He played along with the players. He actually had a long history of being able to work in a political environment. He coined the 11th commandment of "never speaking ill of a fellow Republican." Palin's already broken it.

  36. cleter Says:

    To those who say "she won't run, it's too much work"—uh, she's ALREADY running. She's found some new weird post-modern way of running that's not "too much work." Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't, but she's already running. Has been for months.

  37. '9er Fan Says:

    I agree with this article entirely, except the Jerry Rice part. Besides being unnecessarily mean about a classy former superstar, there is no comparison between Jerry and Sarah. He was truly the greatest at what he did. He did not resign halfway through his contract, and has not embarrassed himself or his family since retiring. Sarah is/did/does the opposite of all that.

  38. Dave S. Says:

    Now that she is reduced to parading her children around on camera for sympathy and spouting catchphrases like some attention-hungry hack contestant on Project Runway…

    Nothing new there; that's the 2008 campaign in a nutshell.

  39. eau Says:

    Oh yeah. Now that's a comment. Concise, biatches!

    OK, moving on…

    I feel very odd typing these words, but it seems that Ed is being overly optimistic.

    Man, that was weird. When 'Ed' and 'optimistic' can live in the same sentence, what's to say 'President' and 'Palin' can't do likewise?

  40. drive-by Says:

    My sense is that even in 2012, there will not be enough Republican voters willing to nominate or elect a woman over a man, particularly a woman who resembles Abe Lincoln as little as Palin does. The defeat of several high-profile female Tea Party candidates in the midterms — particularly Sharron Angle — reinforced my sense that there's some kind of Bradley effect at work. I don't think her sex appeal is spectacular enough to overcome this gender bias, period. I will be truly amazed if it happens. This is the fucking *presidency of the United States*. If she were an equally irritating man, I would be considerably more worried, but that's admittedly a little hard to picture.

  41. Gus Says:

    You have WAY too much faith in your fellow Americans.