Last week, after Barack Obama's historic victory, the Berkeley community mobbed the streets. And even watching from the Daily Cal's office on the sixth floor of Eshleman, having already spent hours working on my first post-election column, it was one of the most strangely beautiful sights I had ever seen.
There's no denying that this is a country where division still runs deep, caused by the evils of racial conflict, religious extremism and partisan politics. And in coming together to elect Obama, we were rejecting that history-choosing hope over defeatism, and change over stagnation.
But we were also celebrating what wouldn't be. There's never going to be a McCain presidency. And perhaps more importantly, Sarah Palin will continue to be exiled to Alaska-far away from a certain house in Washington D.C.
But don't celebrate (or to be partisan-friendly, despair) if you think America has completely avoided placing the Tina Fey look-a-like in the White House. 'Cause even after losing in a landslide last week, the GOP's pit bull with lipstick isn't disappearing from national politics anytime soon. I'm even willing to make a bold prediction: Sarah Palin doesn't just run in 2012; she's the Republican Party's nominee.
I know it all sounds overly presumptuous and it definitely is. Four years is a really long time and public support is something fickle-as evidenced by the exactly zero Vanilla Ice songs that most of us would know that don't include the words "ice, ice baby."
But there are reasons to think Palin will lead her party four years from now.
First off, the GOP is desperate for new leadership. The most prominent national Republican at the moment is an incredibly unpopular president, ending his term within months. And since John McCain isn't likely to stick around until 2012 and run again at age 76-cause let's face it, he was pushing it as is-there isn't an obvious, heavily experienced heir apparent.
That leaves Palin as arguably the most popular potential 2012 candidate in the GOP, particularly to a social conservative base that she is credited with electrifying.
Her support among Republicans is more complex than you probably think. It's not just that she has taken the right wing hard-line on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. It's more about the intangible qualities that other candidates (cough ... flip-flopper Mitt Romney) can't just easily Xerox for political purposes. Palin embodies a unique biography that speaks to conservative middle America, who unlike Democrats, are still looking for a presidential candidate to save them from a growing disillusionment with mainstream politics.
And she's perceived as the right's answer to that. Aside from a certain Illinois senator turned president-elect, nothing screams "Washington Outsider" more than this God-fearing, gun-toting hockey mom who started her political career in the PTA-not as a creation of political machinery.
And I'm not conveniently overlooking the civil war that is erupting within the GOP-one that Palin has yet to win. I'm just confident that she will. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 64 percent of Republicans say she is their top choice for president in 2012. So Palin's base of support within the GOP has already heard almost anything that any of her newly vocal Republican enemies are slinging at her, and they're OK with it.
But it's not just that these attacks aren't going to work, it's that they'll probably end up helping her.
During the Democratic primary, the Hillary Clinton campaign charged that they would benefit from something called "the pile-on effect" after she was double teamed by Barack Obama and John Edwards during one of the early debates. The basc idea is that when a candidate is perceived as being excessively and unfairly attacked (something more relevant for women), she ends up engendering sympathy.
So when "anonymous ex-McCain aides," alleged to be connected to the Romney camp, continue to characterize her as an "inexperienced" "hillbilly" who wears outfits that costs upward of $100,000, she ends up looking like a martyr. But this time, the culprit isn't the evil, sexist, liberally bias media, but as Palin has suggested, the evil Republican establishment, not welcoming to a "Washington Outsider."
The only question left, of course, is whether she wants it. And given that she's scheduled four nationally televised interviews, only one of which is with Fox News, I think it's safe to say she's eyeing a job outside of the state of Alaska.
What does the future hold for the GOP?