The bear is Sarah Palin, I guess.
Political action committees are usually started by people or organizations who want to advocate for a particular issue or get a candidate elected. You probably don’t have a PAC. I don’t either, and that’s OK—we don’t need PACs because we’re just ordinary folks, and if we want to be politically active, we can just write a check or post a copy-and-pasted Facebook status about gay marriage. So why does Sarah Palin have a PAC?
You probably don’t remember who Sarah Palin is, so let me refresh your memory. She started her political career by becoming a school-board member, then a mayor, in a small Alaskan town. In 2006, she ran for governor of Alaska and won, at least partly thanks to every single elected official in the state being horrifically corrupt at the time. Then in 2008, John McCain—sliding in the polls and desperate to energize his campaign—picked her as his vice-presidential candidate. She was relatively young and attractive (especially relative to McCain), and he probably figured she could appeal to women and the GOP base. Well, he lost pretty badly. But she excited a certain kind of conservative because she was folksy—just an ordinary “hockey mom” from Alaska. Also, she was dismissed by a lot of media commentators, which was a good thing since the media elite were out of touch with the real America, anyway.
So seven months after the 2008 election, Palin announced that she was resigning as governor of Alaska. She didn’t make her reasons clear, but it quickly became apparent that she was going to seek a lucrative career in the field of telling people what they wanted to hear, and being famous. She traveled the country to give speeches filled with her folksy yet utterly insane ideas about politics and America, TLC gave her a reality show, and Fox News hired her as a correspondent.
Then her show got canceled, and Fox let her go after she asked for too much money. She currently doesn’t have what you or I would call a “job,” she hasn’t run for any elected office in five years, and she’s only in the news when she says something that’s particularly strange and/or untrue. And she wants your money. Here’s a fundraising video her organization, SarahPAC, released yesterday:
The video is called “Loaded for Bear,” an idiom meaning either “angry” or “drunk,” and it’s a terrific representation of Palin herself: vague on specifics but pissed off and patriotic, egotistical in the extreme (who else but Palin would name a PAC after herself, despite not running for anything?), and ignorant of inconvenient facts.
“She picks winners,” Ted Cruz intones early in the video. Actually, not so much. Her website features a Palin’s Picks section where you can see a list of the 16 candidates she endorsed in 2012. (It works out to 15 elections because Rebecca Kleefisch was Scott Walker’s running mate.) Here’s how they did:
Winners: Paul Gosar, Jeff Flake, Scott Walker/Rebecca Kleefisch, Ted Yoho, Orrin Hatch, Deb Fischer, Ted Cruz
Losers: Allen West, Mia Love, Martha Zoller, Kirk Adams, Dan Bongino, Richard Mourdock, Sandy Adams, Sarah Steelman
That’s a record of 7–8, and upon a closer look, it’s even less impressive. Orrin Hatch and Scott Walker were politically powerful incumbents who probably didn’t need her help. Sarah Steelman lost in a primary election, and Richard Mourdock is famous for losing his race after saying pregnancies that result from rapes are “something that God intended.” Palin’s been good at backing intensely conservative “underdog” candidates in GOP primaries, but they generally go on to lose in the general elections. Matthew Dowd, a Republican analyst, told ABC before the 2012 election, “Singularly, she doesn't win these races… But if there is a forest with a bunch of kindling, she puts a match and a light on it. The forest wood had to be dry, but she's a spark.” Another way to put it is that everything she touches explodes into flame.
None of this has anything to do with Palin’s political positions, which are beside the point anyway—her version of “conservatism” is just a bunch of rants about how Hussein Obama is a socialist and the liberal media Washington, DC, elite is something something, Mama grizzly. In the past few years she’s spent just as much effort trying to get a new reality show as she has on political campaigns. Her me-centric PAC is another way to extend her 15 minutes, or it’s a way to stick it to Republican insiders like Karl Rove who’ve always hated her, or it’s a way to get money from her increasingly insular fan base, or it’s just something to do to pass the time in between speeches.
It’s clear, though, that SarahPAC isn’t about raising money or winning elections, since it isn’t very good at either: it spent about $5 million in 2012, which is deer droppings compared with the $175 million spent by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC. The real purpose of her organization is to get Palin’s name in the news, which is very important to her. At CPAC this month, she said, “We don’t have leadership coming out of Washington. We have reality television.” That’s a weird burn on Obama coming from someone who has actually been on reality TV, but maybe that wasn’t an insult. Maybe she was just trying to say that she wants to be part of the show however she can.
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