Sour economy could put Sarah Palin in the White House
Sarah Palin's presidential strategy depends on channeling white working class anger over the economy.
Monday night, Sarah Palin watched from the audience as daughter Bristol danced on ABC. Twenty-three million other Americans joined her from their homes. Tuesday, the former vice-presidential candidate started a 13-state book tour for her new book, “America By Heart,” which has a first printing of 1 million. Her reality show on TLC, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” is in its third week. Last Sunday she was the cover story in the New York Times magazine.Skip to next paragraph
Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
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It’s all part of The Palin Strategy for becoming president in 2012 — or 2016 or 2020.
Republican leaders don’t believe it. “If she wanted the Republican nomination she’d be working on the inside,” one influential Republican told me a few days ago. “She’d be building relationships with Republican Senators and representatives, governors, and state party officials. She’d be smoothing the feathers she ruffled by backing Tea Party candidates. She’d be huddled with GOP kingmakers.” When I suggested she has a different strategy, the influential Republican smiled knowingly. “That’s how it’s done – how McCain, Bush, and everyone has done it. That’s the only way to do it. But all she really wants is celebrity.”
The Republican establishment doesn’t get it. Celebrity is part of The Palin Strategy – as is avoiding the insider game. She doesn’t want to do what Huckabee, Pawlenty, Gingrich, or Romney have to do. She has an outside game.
Palin’s game plan is directly related to America’ white working class, and the economy it faces – and the economy it’s likely to continue to experience for years.
No prospective candidate so sharply embodies the anger of America’s white working class as does Palin. And none is channeling that anger nearly as effectively.
White working class anger isn’t new, of course, nor is the Republican Party’s use of it. Apart from the South, where the anger came in response to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the more widespread working-class anxiety began in the late 1970s when the median male wage that had been rising for three decades began to stagnate.
As I noted in “Aftershock,” families responded by sending wives and mothers into the paid workforce, working longer hours, and then, finally, going deep into debt. These coping mechanisms allayed but did not remove the growing anxiety.
Over the years, Republicans have channeled the anxiety into anger, through overt appeals to a so-called “silent majority” that were overlooked by Democrats and liberals; through “tax revolts” by working and middle-class families that couldn’t afford to pay more; and in subtle and not-so-subtle appeals to racist fears (Willie Horton).