THE PHRASE "COMMON WISDOM" is one of the biggest oxymorons in the English language. Generally it is neither commonly held nor particularly wise.
One of the more ridiculous examples of “common wisdom” echoed by the pundits these days is the idea that Sarah Palin can never be president.
I’m certainly not a particular fan of hers, but to think she cannot be elected is to be in complete denial both of politics and of the state of the nation today.
It’s an article of faith in liberal quarters that Palin is “unqualified” to be president. But the Constitution recognizes only three qualifications for president — that the person be age 35 or over, a “natural–born” American, and a resident for 14 years — all of which Palin satisfies. Beyond that, there’s only the matter of winning 270 electoral votes.
The Republican establishment, embodied by Karl Rove, seems to think the Palin family’s forays into reality TV make her unelectable. To this I have a two-word response which anyone who spent any time in Savannah over the past month will immediately understand:
Reality TV is, quite regrettably, the biggest thing in America today (other than Americans themselves, that is, though obesity and reality TV are no doubt related). To think that being on reality TV would make you less relevant in this day and age and upside–down, screwed-up society is to whistle past the graveyard.
While polls show the general public is indeed sour on the idea of a President Palin — so far — what the general public thinks doesn’t matter in a primary. Palin, with her virtual 100 percent name ID and fanatical supporters, could easily win two out of the first three Republican primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, and/or South Carolina — which is really all it takes to achieve unbeatable momentum.
The second part of the equation, the election itself, is also not out of the question for Palin. Politics, like basketball, is all about the matchup. You don’t have to be incredibly popular, just more popular than the other guy (or girl).
If unemployment continues at very high levels, and if President Obama continues his tepid, feckless ways — so bizarre considering the lofty rhetoric of civic engagement that got him into office — Palin doesn’t have to be wildly popular to beat him. She just has to be a viable alternative for a plurality of voters.
The secret the Obama team probably wouldn’t prefer to be widely known is the fact that Obama, even at the peak of his popularity, has never been popular with white voters — and I don’t mean just Southern white voters.
The only white demographic Obama won in 2008 was the 18–29 age group. In the recent midterms, Democrats were destroyed among white voters, getting only 38 percent of the white vote nationwide.
(To be clear: I make no accusations of racism — just giving you the raw numbers.)
While white voters are a decreasing share of the electorate, the fact remains that three out of four voters in this country are white. Considering the likelihood that in 2012 Obama will not get near the turnout he received in 2008, the numbers are truly ominous.
It’s become a cliché of American life that George W. Bush wasn’t a very smart guy. But Bush was certainly smart enough to know who his supporters were and to keep them happy — or if not happy, at least engaged.
The first thing Obama did once in office, however, was completely ignore the young voters who provided his margin of victory — the bulk of whom did not show up to vote for Democrats this Nov. 2.
So who’s the dumb one?
Like Bush, Palin is also not book–smart. But also like Bush, she is street–smart. And in politics, the streetfighters always win in the end.
On another note, congratulations to the organizers and volunteers who pulled off a successful Savannah Holly Days downtown.
I wrote a fairly scathing column about the event last year — I felt it didn’t approach its true potential, to put it charitably — and I’m happy to see that some necessary improvements were made and the event was a big hit.
All’s well that ends well...