Nathan Sass

Myth Alaska – Response Letter

In Politics, Sarah Palin on February 11, 2010 at 6:00 AM

I sent the following to the author of ‘Myth Alaska’, Nick Gillespie, Editor in Chief of Reason.com.  Please read his full story at http://reason.com/archives/2010/02/09/myth-alaska.

 
 
Mr. Gillespie:
 
I enjoyed reading your commentary, ‘Myth Alaska’ (http://reason.com/archives/2010/02/09/myth-alaska), but I would like to correct what I believe are some flaws in your reasoning (pun intended).
 
Sarah Palin has what I like to call “gut appeal”.  In American politics, candidates with “gut appeal” attract a large and committed following that is not always tied to specific policy positions or political accomplishments.
 
Examples of recent political figures with “gut appeal” include Reagan and Clinton.  Neither would be considered highly politically accomplished prior to their rise to the highest office.  True, Reagan was Governor of CA, but was a failed GOP candidate and considered largely a fringe player prior to 1980.  Likewise, Clinton was considered a political lightweight from a small southern state, only to become “the Comeback Kid”.
 
Yet they both were able to rally a committed following that largely remained intact regardless of the political situation they found themselves in.  Reagan’s weathered Iran-Contra, Clinton’s survived Lewinsky and other smaller scandals.
 
Palin, like Reagan and Clinton before her, appeals to a more basic American instinct.  She is “real”.  We know that most political figures are not really what we project them to be, but a select few have the ability to engage our suspension of disbelief and connect to them as if what we see is in fact real.
 
Politically, the strength of any candidate is the passion and persistence of those that follow them.  Long is the list of politicians that have seen their followings eroded at the first signs of head winds, never to truly recover.  The current President is a victim of just such a development.
 
Palin has this “it factor”.  It isn’t something that is coach-able or taught.  It’s an innate gift that a select few have.
 
As for her bona fides as an executive in command, I think she has more that the chops to succeed.  Leadership is almost never about what the leader themselves knows.  In fact, that can be a detriment to great leadership as it creates an undercurrent that fights learned outside influences that may be important to hear.
 
In the case of Reagan, he was not the most intelligent President we have ever had and he probably knew it, but that was his truest strength.  He was dedicated to getting the smartest people he could to surround him, and listened to their input.  He had core principles which he adhered to, but the details of reaching his goals were left to those better equipped to deal with them.  Reagan was a gifted leader and internally honest, which is far more important in the Oval Office than your grades at an Ivy League institution or your personal IQ.
 
Palin, should she reach that same height, seems at this point to have the willingness to do and be that type of leader.
 
It is more than possible, and I personally believe likely, that she will emerge as the next Reagan or Clinton and become a beloved President.  Not for what she believes or accomplishes necessarily, but because she just has “it”.
 
Be cautious of making the mistake so many on the left and right did with Reagan and Clinton respectively in dismissing or attempting to fight the “gut appeal”.  Accept it, understand it, and work within it.  Those who fight it do so at their own peril (i.e. Newt Gingrich)  She has it, and it is already starting to show.
 
Thanks for your time.
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