How Sarah Palin can win the White HouseSeptember 29, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
I’ve read a lot of liberal/skeptical comments about Sarah Palin lately, and while I agree that she’s probably not suited for the vice presidency (let alone the presidency), I haven’t heard too much commentary on how this strengthens her political position.
Here’s the trick: you can’t embarrass people into admitting that they’re wrong. People who are embarrassed become defensive, and even irrational at times, in order to protect their self-esteem. That’s why the Bush-Quayle ticket did so well after Quayle’s famous “potato/potatoe” gaffe. The press and the media had so much fun mocking Quayle’s apparent ignorance and subsequent ineptitude that people actually started to feel sorry for him. Pity for Quayle became antipathy towards the liberals, who were perceived as being cruel, and Americans, who always tend to root for the underdog, voted their support for poor persecuted bumbler. People make mistakes, and are more sympathetic to others who also make mistakes (other things being equal).
There have been bloggers who have looked forward rather gleefully to the VP candidates debate coming up shortly, anticipating that Palin will babble and say dumb things. Paradoxically, however, she can only improve her party’s chances of victory by coming across as a complete moron, especially if the liberals follow up with prolonged mockery and ridicule. Many people will empathize with Palin, whether because she’s a woman, or because she’s a conservative, or because she’s a Christian, and will see the attacks on Palin as attacks by “them” against “us.” This could win Palin a sympathy vote as well as a defensive us-vs-them vote.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible for Palin to blow it. A mistake that was really bad might do it, but it would have to be a mistake that actually alienates people as opposed to merely being stupid about things most people don’t care about. If she blurted out something about charismatics being the only real Christians, or said that people are poor because they’re too lazy to deserve an income, or something similarly bigoted, then just maybe Mr. and Mrs. Average American would turn against her.
But chances are pretty good that she won’t, and if she is merely incompetent and ignorant, then open mockery of her lack of expertise is likely to produce a backlash of support for the Republican ticket. It has happened before.