I must preface this post by saying that I do not identify with either the Republican or Democratic parties. I consider myself fairly politically agnostic. The following post is not a reflection of my feelings towards conservatives as a whole, but rather to one in particular: Sarah Palin. Palin’s staunch opposition to GLBT rights coupled with her meteoric rise in popularity among the far right wing should be worrisome to the gay community.
“I fucking hate Sarah Palin.” That’s how Margaret Cho opened her most recent stand up show to the delight of her mostly gay audience. Lisa Lampanelli memorably made Palin a centerpiece in her most recent comedy tour. And while I love to see Tina Fey’s dead ringer impression of her as much as the next gay, it amazes me that despite monumentally embarrassing herself and the Republican party during the 2008 presidential election, she’s still at the center of our national attention a year and a half later.
Earlier this month President Obama engaged Palin in a verbal sparring match when she criticized his administration’s proposal to limit the use of nuclear weapons. When asked for his reaction to Palin’s comments, rather than dismissing the question, Obama replied “Last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on nuclear issues. If the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.” Touché Mr. Obama, but I have to ask, why are you giving her the attention she so desperately seeks yet so clearly doesn’t deserve? Responding to her senseless comments only legitimizes her as a political authority.
It seems Palin is everywhere these days- going rogue on Fox News, rebel-rousing at Tea Party rallies, peddling her autobiography at book-signings, and soon to be snowmobiling around Alaska in a reality show on the Discovery Channel. Whatever clipping service is tracking her mentions in the press must be making a killing! And while the vast majority of her press mentions over the past year and half have been less than flattering, she could care less. You see Palin is a student of the Paris Hilton School of Public Relations in that she believes any publicity is good publicity. While this PR strategy might be apropos for a celebutante, it’s amazing that Palin is making it work for a politician (I use that term loosely).
After becoming a national laughingstock during the 2008 presidential election, Palin could have easily faded away like a bad memory. However, she’s managed to keep herself in the forefront of our minds by whatever means necessary- whether it be overreacting to a fairly innocuous comment by David Letterman or feuding publicly with her grandson’s father (and major cock-tease) Levi Johnston.
And while she remains a favorite punching bag of liberals, Palin has emerged as a major political mouthpiece to millions nationwide. She’s managed to tap in to a distinct segment of our population that find her folksy, down-home, everywoman rhetoric comforting during a time of economic and political unrest. Palin has mastered a fundamental rule of marketing: know your target market and use messaging that resonates with them.
Is she planning a 2012 presidential run? You betcha! But surely, you say, Americans wouldn’t actually elect her to the presidency, right? Surely, we’re smarter than that. Are we? We elected George Bush… twice. The sad truth is something about her appeals to a large portion of the American populace- a portion that typically emerges in droves on election day.
Like a bad case of herpes Sarah Palin just won’t go away. As long as we keep lampooning her on sketch comedy shows, skewering her on late night television, and blogging about her on gay-oriented marketing websites, Sarah Palin will stick around. We can laugh at her all we want now, because in the end, she may be the one laughing… all the way to the white house.