by Whitney Pitcher
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” – Susan B. Anthony
Governor Palin’s decision not to renew her contract at Fox News has received a lot of discussion from the punditry as expected. Some have pretentiously referred to her as a fad. Others wrote her political obituary (just as they did when she stepped aside from the governorship), casting everything in past tense as if she just plans ride off into the aurora bourealis on a snow machine. Of course, Governor Palin isn’t the political equivalent of pogs or Shirley MaClaine, who has had more lives than most cats. Rumors of her political death are greatly exaggerated, which is just how she wants it. As Governor Palin said to Breitbart News on Saturday, ” we delight in those who underestimate us”.
Throughout her career, Governor Palin, just like Susan B. Anthony, has cared far more about reform than reputation. When she was on the city council, she took a stand by voting against a regulation for garbage pickup because it would have unethically steered business to the garbage company owned by other council member. Who was that council member? Nick Carney–the very person who encouraged Palin to run for city council. Reform was more important to her than social standing.
As an oil and gas regulator in the Murkowski administration, she stood up to Randy Ruedrich, a fellow member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission and the head of the Alaska Republican Party, when he did party business on state time and was engaged in other unethical behavior. Palin did all she could do with in her power to expose the corruption, but Governor Murkowski did not act. The only thing Palin felt she could do in good conscience was resign. She gave up a six figure job and risked her political future.Again, reform was more important to her than social standing.
Later, as Governor and following her time as the GOP vice presidential candidate, she was hit with a barrage of frivolous ethics complaints. Defending these complaints cost her family hundreds of thousands of dollars, her state upwards of two million dollars, and her staff eighty percent of their time. Governor Palin thought that remaining governor stood in the way of reform for Alaska, as the money and time suck of ethics complaints stymied progress for her state. Rather than bitterly clinging to power, Governor Palin resigned with the full understanding that it may negatively affect her political future.
Following her resignation, she used multiple media platforms to spread her conservative message. She became a commentator at FoxNews, endorsed and campaigned for reform minded candidates,spoke at Tea Party rallies and used social media outlets to voice her ideas and thoughts on issues ranging from energy independence to foreign policy to government ethics. She used somewhat unconventional outlets, like TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska and appearances Conan O’Brien, to reach new groups and affect the culture beyond the traditional media used in politics. For much of this, she was mocked. Governor Palin takes to the her Facebook page far more often than the pages of the Wall Street Journal, although she does that on occasion too. However, using such a platform was poo pooed as unserious. In reality, it was a revolutionary way for politics to enter the social media, as people were exposed to energy policy right along side new pictures of their grand children and news of their favorite music artist’s tours. Her travelogue show exposed new people to Alaska’s vast resources and the application of a strong work ethic. Again, reforming the method of marketing conservatism in culture and new media was more important to her than her social standing within a party holding steadfast to a world where white papers, focus groups, and power point presentations are seen as the means to influencing the populace.
Governor Palin spoke unabashedly as a commentator at FoxNews. However, as an outlet primarily seen as the “Republican” channel, commenting at Fox became “preaching to the choir”. As she noted on Saturday, Governor Palin’s message of reform is taking on the “big government enablers” on our side and using opportunities to broaden “the message of the beauty of freedom and the imperative of defending our republic and restoring this most exceptional nation.” Interestingly and possibly purposefully, news of Governor Palin’s departure from Fox and her next steps came as the same time as the National Review held a summit, complete with participation from Joe Scarborough, to discuss the future of conservatism–i.e. the very preaching to the choir that she indicated that conservatives need to move away from. For all this, the mainstream media, many of whom try to cast FoxNews as inconsequential, are now trying to portray Governor Palin as irrelevant without Fox. Yet, if one is truly irrelevant, they usually do not require hundreds of news stories deeming them so. She is so “irrelevant” that a publicly funded university did a study to determine how much money she was paid per word at Fox. There still hasn’t been a study to determine how much money the federal government spends/borrows per word that President Obama reads off of a teleprompter.
Governor Palin’s next step of reform is to expand her previous steps of taking on the party establishment and continuing to broaden the message of conservatism. Reform is in her nature–whether is policy reform inside elected office or conservative messaging reform and supporting reform minded candidates outside of office. As she said in channeling Revolutionary war hero John Paul Jones, she has not yet begun to fight.