Why They're Wild About Palin

(AP Photo/Harper)
Ever since John McCain catapulted Sarah McCain onto the national stage in the summer of 2008, I've watched my lefty friends here in San Francisco threaten to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge if the former Alaska Governor ever became president.

Their standard refrain: "She's just too extreme, she's just too dumb, she's just too snarky - she's just too..too!"

Suffice to say that this crowd does not get `Sarah-Appeal' and never will. So leave it to a comedian to solve a riddle that still flummoxes liberals. During his appearance on Bill O'Reilly's Fox television show Wednesday night, Saturday Night Live alum (and now radio talk show host,) Dennis Miller, summed it up with lapidary precision.

"I'm a Palin fan, because she irritates just the right people for me," he said.

Exactamundo.

Democrats may equate the name Palin with the sound of sharp nails clawing a chalkboard but so much the better, says Miller, a show business pro who understands a thing or two about shtick and the art of pushing peoples' buttons.

"I mean, she drives the right people crazy," he told O'Reilly. "Do I think she's going to outsmart you? No. But do I think that, in some way, she has an appeal with people that practiced politicians might never have? Yes, I do."

If you judge by the numbers, there's no debate he's right about that. Palin's upcoming memoir Going Rogue: An American Life is ranked No. 1 both on the Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bestseller lists - and this, still a full month and a half before the book is scheduled to go on sale.

As they look to 2012, the Republicans already have a media superstar in their stable. The one caveat: Palin remains a lightening rod for controversy. So it was that after readers responded to our post reporting the advance success of Rogue, I came across a post by one person who goes by the handle "two-cats." He wrote: "Comic book, soap opera baloney is more like it. I shall not be reading anything by this woman...not interested in anything she has to say (or, rather had written for her) and it infuriates me that a ding-a-ling like her gets so much media attention."

Harsh. But in slamming Palin as an undeserving dolt, Mr. or Mrs. "Cats" (or two-cats, as the case may be) supported Miller's thesis. Palin has this knack for sending the liberal-left into knee-knocking spittle-inducing convulsions. More than any other Republican, Palin stirs passions. Most important, she has the sort of sass that attracts big crowds of true believers willing to open their wallets for her. Can you say that about the likes of Tim Pawlenty or (gasp!) Bobby Jindal? Not with a straight face.

Rogue undoubtedly will make Palin wealthy overnight. It also provides a springboard for a political comeback and a possible run to lead the party as its presidential nominee. (Just as did for Richard Nixon.)

No secret what comes next. After the book signing tour, Palin hits the rubber chicken circuit to rack up points with Republican congressional candidates running in the mid-term elections. She can also do herself a favor by presenting the "new Sarah" (reminiscent of the "new Nixon") and banish memories of that disastrous Katie Couric interview.

No such need to reintroduce herself to the party's conservative base. That crowd already recognizes Palin as one of their own. My liberal friends will never understand the appeal. They reduce the Palin effect to that of a media-created sensation - one fostered by her amen corner at Fox News, talk radio and the right-leaning blogs, who appear willing do anything to keep her in the public eye. Whatever truth there is to that explanation, it does little to explain the persistence of the true believers.

Here's the key point: For them, Palin is not another wishy-washy, faux conservative on the John McCain model. She speaks their language on issues that are central to their sense of who they are as Americans: gun rights, religion, abortion, patriotism and the role of government in their lives. They also remember the insults. And each time the left and Democratic media apologists (like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow) caricature Palin as a dumbbell hick from the sticks, that just reinforces their conviction that they must be doing something right.

After all, if it ticks off the liberals, it must be good. Right?
  • Charles Cooper On Twitter»

    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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