Tom Foreman | Bio
When Sarah Palin took her unexpected swan dive into Lake Nevermore by announcing she was quitting as Governor of Alaska, I was suitably puzzled. I assumed she must have been conked in the head by a rogue moose, or stumbled into a patch of unripe salmonberries, or she had some secret hidden on the Appalachian Trail, if you know what I mean.
Now, however, I am remembering something I understood well before I moved to DC and was enveloped by the mind-numbing fog inside the Beltway: Many people in the rest of the country do not see politics the same way as east coast politicos.
For many Americans, what Governor Palin did was not only reasonable, but even praiseworthy. The latest polls confirm it. Rather than grind through the numbers again, which you’ve probably seen by now, I’ll just tell you they pretty much add up to this: Those who thought she was an utterly unqualified political opportunist of the worst sort still do, and those who thought she was a fresh voice of conservative reason who is in touch with the needs and desires of working folks, still do too.
Some are calling her a quitter who is abandoning her post, betraying voters who supported her. Others are calling her an honest person, who is reasonably leaving a job which she may be unable to effectively fulfill while dealing with her newfound national notoriety.
Perhaps all the two sides can agree on is that she is cementing her reputation as a go it alone/into the wilderness/maverick/hockey mom with a penchant for taking penalties. On the Republican ice, there is just nothing else quite like her. And while that drives Democrats crazy, it’s important to realize how appealing that can be to other voters.
Although it will certainly cause howls and gnashing of teeth, there is a certain similarity between Palin’s approach and that of another unconventional candidate of recent memory. Barack Obama was speaking out against the Iraq war back when political wisdom called that a big mistake. He ran against the Clinton/Old Democrat power machine when that was considered as politically suicidal as mooning Harry Reid on the Capitol steps. He stood up to an entire hallowed field of political analysts who said a black man with a funny name had no chance of winning and he said they were mistaken. And it all worked.
It worked because the whole point of his campaign was to say the old way of politics was wrong. His fans may despise Sarah Palin. But if they look beyond their fury, they might notice that on the other side of the political fence, she may be playing the same game.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with