Sarah Palin tries to stay relevant

February 12, 2013

CORRECTION:  An earlier version of this post and the post’s URL incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin had signed on as a contributor to the Al Jazeera America news network. The blogger cited a report on the Daily Currant Web site as the basis for that information without realizing that the piece was satirical. 

The Sarah Palin Story is a cautionary tale about what can happen when politics and celebrity meet.

Fox News and their once-upon-a-time darling Palin recently parted ways after three years. But it appears that Palin is still trying to find ways to stay relevant while her 15 minutes fades into the political history books.

Sarah Palin was once the GOP's rising star.
Sarah Palin was once the GOP’s rising star.

On Monday morning, Palin posted a message via Facebook that she and her husband, Todd, planned to attend Monday’s memorial service for slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. After the service, she wrote on her page, “It was a beautiful memorial service for Chris Kyle at Cowboys Stadium this afternoon. What a celebration of a great life! All in all, is there a finer human being who has crossed the 50-yard line star in Texas than Chris Kyle?” She then linked to a way to honor Kyle. She also thanked her followers for recent birthday wishes.

A recent poll shows that her home state of Alaska no longer loves her. A survey by Public Policy Polling shows that Alaskans have a higher opinion of Congress than Palin. And that’s saying something considering Congress is at an all-time low. Alaskans – 78 percent of them – also do not want Palin to run for president in 2016. If she was pitted against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a presidential matchup, Clinton would win by 16 points in the 49th state.

Four years ago, Palin was the superstar of the Republican Party. She was a fierce fundraiser and a lightening rod for the tea party. Then, the reality television and fame bugs bit her and her family hard. From “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” to daughter Bristol appearing on “Dancing With The Stars,” you half-expected the family to appear next in a mayonnaise commercial.

Was that where it all went south for Palin?

Lara Brown, a political science professor at Villanova University, says that Palin’s star flickered the minute she said she wasn’t running for president in 2011.

“She gave up her gladiator status and became a spectator,” Brown told me. “In doing so, she could only stay relevant for so long because the people who rallied behind her in 2008 and wanted her to be their champion in 2012 were sorely disappointed. They believed she had the ‘fire in belly’ for politics and that she was going to be a ‘pit bull-tough hockey mom.’”

Brown points to Palin abandoning the Alaska governorship as the first clue that she may not remain in politics.

“For whatever reason, she has chosen to leave the game – more than once – and that is why she has become a ‘flash in the pan,’” Brown says.

Vice President Joe Biden and Sarah Palin during their 2008 debate.
Vice President Joe Biden and Sarah Palin at their 2008 debate.

Fame, not legislating, is clearly what Palin still seeks. She had to be at least a bit giddy last month when actress Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Palin in the HBO miniseries “Game Change.”

Then there’s social media on which Palin still has a loyal following. On any given post on Facebook, she may have between 30,000 and 90,000 likes. But likes don’t translate into votes. No, Palin is likely done with seeing her name on a ballot, and now will try to stay in the GOP limelight against rising stars such as South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez – women who can actually boast about sponsoring legislation and signing bills.

As Brown says, “You have to love the game to stay with it.”

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

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Melinda Henneberger · February 11, 2013