Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue: An American Life (HarperCollins) is being pitched by her publisher as “one ordinary citizen’s extraordinary journey.”
That’s about right.
Palin is ordinary — remarkably, overwhelmingly, mind-numbingly ordinary.
Back in the day, it seemed as if she might be extraordinary. When I started writing about her in 2006, the year that Palin took on the good old boys of Alaskan Republican politics, she seemed intriguing — even a little, dare we say it, rogue.
The story of a small-town mayor mounting a primary challenge to a sitting governor of her own party — who also happened to be a former US senator and an insider of the highest order in a state where the Grand Old Party is so inbred that it is still nominating the same people it was running in the first elections after statehood was achieved — was appealing. The shoot-from-the-hip (and the helicopter) mayor of Wasilla seemed to come with fewer strings attached then most Alaskan politicians, be they Republicans or Democrats.
Palin’s few months as governor quickly disabused anyone who was paying attention to the notion that she was a reformer. After wrangling a bit with the powerful oil lobby — in a fight that saw her make common cause with liberal Democrats in the legislature — she soon embarked upon a career of cronyism and abuses of power.
Had John McCain’s presidential campaign bothered to vet Palin, she never would have been tapped to join the GOP’s 2008 ticket. But McCain, always a seat of the pants flier, went with his gut and got sucker punched.
Palin was precisely the wrong running mate for McCain.
While the senator from Arizona was a maverick who sought to reach far beyond the boundaries of the Republican Party in hopes of actually winning the presidency, Palin had far more ordinary ambitions.
She was delighted to preach to the choir.
Palin wanted to be the queen of the conservatives, and perhaps the matron of what remained of the Republican Party after George Bush and Dick Cheney were done with it.
But she never evidenced the determination of a John McCain or a Barry Goldwater — let alone a Ronald Reagan — to build conservatism into a brand that might appeal to enough Americans to actually win a national election.