As media reports suggest former reality TV star and Fox News personality Sarah Palin may be gearing up for a run at the Republican Party's presidential nomination (or at least another publicity tour), new polls show her public approval ratings in the tank.
A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that in the field of potential and extremely dull Republican nominees, Palin polls well – double digits, probably in the top three. However, almost six in ten Republicans – that's Republicans – said they would never vote for her.
In a recent Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll, a majority of Americans said they would choose to have lunch with President Obama, while a mere 16 percent said Palin was their preferred lunch date. Only about one in four Republicans liked the idea of eating a meal with her.
“Overwhelmingly, Americans find President Barack Obama to be the most likable and lunch-worthy date compared to any of those hoping take his job in the 2012 election,” said Ron Sachs, president of Ron Sachs Communications. “There is no baloney in this simple truth: the ‘lunch pal’ poll very likely reflects the significant advantage President Obama enjoys heading into his re-election against a party that has no ‘candidate du jour.’”
Palin has done nothing to distinguish herself in the four years since her disastrous run as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008. Apart from quitting the governorship of Alaska, a ghost-written book that read like her version of the blame game, a TV reality show that exploited her family, and frequent snarky and inconsequential commentary on Fox News, Palin may be the most famous Republican politician known only for accomplishing nothing.
One can see the campaign commercials now. While President Obama was stopping Somali pirates, killing OBL, stopping oil spills, turning economic recession into recovery, stopping the swine flu, and providing healthcare to 31 million uninsured Americans, Sarah Palin quit her job as governor because the pressure was too much. While Palin was exploiting her family on a TV reality show, President Obama was fighting to make the economy work for working families. As President Obama tackled Wall Street, credit card, and student loan reforms, Sarah Palin was busy advocating the end of Medicare. While she was house shopping in Arizona, President Obama was reducing nuclear weapons and trying to forge Middle East peace.
Further, her old stand-by attacks on President Obama simply don't work anymore. She can't believably challenge his religious background or his citizenship as she likely would as a real candidate. As a presidential candidate, she will try to paint President Obama as the friend of Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, gays and other constituencies that Republicans tend to either ignore or actively despise, at the expense of whites, straights, and men. The point will be to try to increase the number of the latter who support her ticket.
But as immoral and despicable as racially-driven or hate-driven divisiveness is and as much as all working-class people, regardless of race, sexuality or national origin, may feel that reelection of the President is vital to their interests, the last election showed that President Obama can earn less than a majority of these majority populations and still win the presidency. Only 45 percent or so of whites gave their votes to the President in 2008. This statistic was driven by racially coded messages about "Joe the Plumber" and about the President's racial, national and religious background. As noted before, this rhetoric carries little weight anymore.
Still, as commentator Bill Fletcher noted recently, racism stands as the final campaign card Republicans have. It motivates much of their antipathy for the president and will drive their campaign against him in the next 18 months. As Fletcher notes, "The white nationalist backlash is using Obama as the target but they are attempting to create a white united front to, in their minds, take back the United States."
He adds, "The racist attacks on Obama, then, fuse with the larger right-wing narrative: the United States of America is being lost to white people."
Fletcher points to the drive to disfranchise vulnerable populations in states with strong Republican majorities. "The objective is to reduce the potential anti-Republican electorate. This is being done by demagogically and inaccurately crowing about alleged voter fraud. But this happens through the Right racializing alleged voter fraud."
Splitting this "white nationalist united front" – not just to win an election but to deliver a meaningful blow against white supremacy – will require an even stronger coalition of the forces that supported the President in 2008, and that will take work. Shoe leather and phone lines will have to be worn thin bringing the forces together needed to make this happen. OF course, the President himself still has plenty of time to advance policies, or at least policy positions, that help to bring those forces together, including job-creating economic policies, immigration reform, protection of Medicare and Social Security, and speedier closure in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
We know that Sarah Palin seeks leadership of the "white nationalist united front." We know that her resumé in the past four years is a thin compilation of minor feats of celebrity without serious leadership or contributions. We know that Republicans are seriously doubtful about her candidacy. But we also know that as a successful nominee she would immediately galvanize major sections of the base that supports President Obama.
So, run Sarah, run.