The writing-off of Sarah Palin began not long after her departure from Fox News hit the newswaves last Friday. The Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote on Monday that Palin is now “officially gone,” at least from the national spotlight.
And MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell bid the failed 2008 vice presidential candidate a self-satisfied adieu, saying that Palin had now lost the “slightest connection to political relevance.”
Vincent Harris, a social-media consultant who helps Republican campaigns, wonders about O’Donnell’s conflict of interest in issuing those words: “He’s a … cable-news host! I mean, what else is he going to say? He’s speaking for cable news in some ways,” says Harris, arguing that the act of dissing Palin’s continued relevance is an old-media phenomenon.
Harris knows old media from new media. He managed social-media stuff for Newt Gingrich’s failed 2012 presidential run and drew plaudits for similar work on the campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who secured an endorsement from Palin.
With Fox News or without Fox News, says Harris, “Gov. Palin is an Internet celebrity, she’s an Internet politician; and her supporters aren’t going anywhere.” Have a look at her Facebook page and her nearly 3.5 million “likes.” When asked how that Web audience advanced Cruz’s cause, Harris responded: “Gov. Palin’s endorsement helped the Cruz campaign immensely online, both to raise money and [to] help energize Republican primary voters.”
To marshal her audience, Palin keeps her page updated pretty frequently, sometimes sharing personal stuff and oftentimes presenting her distinctive politics in her distinctive articulation. On Jan. 22, for instance, she wrote, in part:
Forty years ago today the Supreme Court rendered its Roe v. Wade decision. Those who believe in the sanctity of human life and long to see America embrace a culture in which innocent life is honored and protected continue to look for a day when humanity is again deemed valuable, where we cherish even those who would be born in “less than ideal circumstances.” Children are our most precious resource and remain the greatest symbol of hope God has given us. This is just one reason why the annual March for Life has been such a powerful aspect of the pro-life movement. This year’s event is Friday, January 25th, and once again a multitude of Americans will gather in Washington, D.C. to show their support for precious little ones.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy in Connecticut today. Words can’t express the horror everyone feels in seeing such evil manifested against innocent children. Nothing could be worse than the murder of innocent children. Let’s all pray for the victims, their families, and the whole nation.
If you’ve listened to Palin on TV, you know that her posts sound like her, a point that Harris highlights: “It seems obvious that she’s doing it herself,” he says. It would cost $2 million, says Harris, to build a Facebook page as powerful as the one that Palin is sitting on. “She already has the organic base that most politicians would kill for,” says Harris. “If she wants to get aggressive again, she can do it and she has 3.5 million people that she can talk to. That is more than most Fox shows.”
Palin’s Facebook audience, indeed, just blows away that of so many other political figures. Bill Clinton has a third of Palin’s following; Donald Trump has a sixth; John Boehner has a tenth. That said, Palin’s fan count dwarfs the number of folks who are actively engaged with her content, a point that Harris himself made in a 2010 Daily Caller piece: “Governor Palin may have the most number of fans among Republicans, but it appears she may have reached a saturation point among activists on America’s largest social network,” wrote Harris.
On Jan. 9, Palin blasted an endorsement of a new book by Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro titled “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.” She wrote, in part: “Please read Ben’s book and consider his advice about how we must stand up and push back twice as hard against this bullying. We must not allow ourselves to be frightened into silence. Yes, it’s hard to ‘keep on keeping on’ when being pushed around – but like Ronald Reagan said: when we stiffen our spines, those around us can stiffen theirs, too! Press in, press on. Don’t retreat, friends!”
That post fetched nearly 40,000 “likes” and upwards of 4,000 comments. Much of that commentage, mind you, has little to do with Shapiro’s book and instead veers toward lowest-common-denominator ideological skirmishing. But a great many of the voices, it appears, would likely place great credence in a Palin book plug: “You are an inspiration, Sarah Palin,” wrote one.
Attempts to retrieve a comment from the Palin camp about plugging the Fox News gap ended in failure. Shushannah Walshe of ABC News, in an outstanding look at Palin’s crossroads, quotes Palin friend Steve Bannon as saying, “I don’t anticipate she would ever do punditry again.” At the same time, Palin noted in an interview, “I know the country needs more truth-telling in the media, and I’m willing to do that. So, we shall see.”
One of her Facebook commenters said this: “Sarah great things are after Fox. We will miss your commentary but I know we will continue to hear from through another venue. Radio talk show from Alaska or morning updates like we used to hear from Reagan in the 70’s?”
The talk about platforms and fans and followers and status updates doesn’t appear to impress longtime political adviser Mark McKinnon (who has criticized Palin before): “It’s not old media versus new media that’s the issue. She’s not going to maintain her following unless she has something interesting and relevant to say no matter where or how she says it. And she hasn’t in awhile.”