Before there was Donald Trump, there was Sarah Palin, a supernova who burst out of the 49th state onto the national scene in 2008 as John McCain’s choice for vice president. She ultimately lost to Joe Biden and returned briefly to her day job governing Alaska before quitting midway through her first term to tend to a family fractured by sudden fame.
She’d never been all that motivated by governing, and, needing to earn a living and at a loss for how to channel her newfound fame and cult-like status among Republicans of the sort who’d eventually elect Donald Trump, Palin signed on with Fox. She also starred in a reality show for the Discovery Channel, produced by Mark Burnett of Apprentice fame, in which she rock-climbed, dog-sledded, and salmon-fished through nine episodes, all in designer outerwear with kids in tow, while taking swipes at leftie Democrats who failed to appreciate either the great outdoors or their families. The show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, was cancelled after one season. Most recently she was seen taking off a bear’s head to reveal herself as the person performing Sir Mix-a-Lot’s ode to the female behind, “Baby Got Back,” on The Masked Singer.
Jump ahead a decade plus and, for the next turn in a checkered career, she’s consulting God. According to Right Wing Watch, Palin said she would challenge Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the state’s primary next year “if God wants me to do it.”
Palin likes drama and she called the prospect of winning a Senate seat a “sacrifice,” requiring a move to the "bubble" of Washington—although one she’d endure if called to do so. Since the call from God is to run in Alaska, she breezes by the fact that she spends enough time in the balmy bubble of Arizona to own two houses there and start a parlor game in Juneau of “Where’s Sarah?”
As to her Senate run now back “home,” she teased it at an event in California dedicated to “the power of upholding Biblical values against all odds,” after a prophet asked the good Lord to send her “all the way to the top,” in an interview with the Rev. Ché Ahn, a charismatic pastor who gained fame as a speaker at a pre-Jan 6 rally. Palin may not be the only person hearing a call from above. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also attended the conference.
As to her own Biblical values, Palin’s children are mostly grown: son Track arrested for assault in several domestic violence incidents, divorced daughter Bristol, who endured a shotgun engagement to the father of her child to help Mom with evangelicals, cha-cha-ing her way to third place on Dancing With the Stars but not without believable charges that Mom’s Tea Party fans stuffed the ballot box, and the whole lot making headlines in 2014 for a drunken brawl at a birthday bash in Anchorage. On Todd Palin’s birthday in 2019, he had his lawyers email Sarah that he was filing for divorce on grounds of “incompatibility of temperament between the parties such that they find it impossible to live together.” It became final last year.
At present, God may be the only entity wanting her to enter the primary. The Alaska Republican Party, under the thumb of Trump, was so anxious to avenge the heresy of Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her vote to impeach the former president over his violent attempt to overturn the election, that they voted 58 to 17 to censure Murkowski and to endorse a pray-away-the-gay mid-level former state official, Kelly Tshibkaas, to challenge her. Another MAGA Republican in the mix would presumably only help the incumbent.
Palin often cites God for whatever Mama Grizzly does, like going rogue towards the end of the 2008 campaign, second-guessing McCain’s positions arrived at over 30 years in Congress after five in a tiger cage in Vietnam. Or showing up late as she often did, when God knew she didn’t have anything to wear, despite spending $150,000 of donors’ money on designer clothes. When Katie Couric asked, she couldn’t remember a newspaper she’d read, or anything about the Bush Doctrine, or what experience she had that qualified her to be a heartbeat away from a septuagenarian. It was all so unfair. With no real foreign policy credentials to speak of, she talked about governing the state closest to Russia only for people to remember how Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live Palin put it, that “I can see Russia from my house.”
If only Palin had a drop of Fey’s comedy genius, or if she was as smart as she thought she was, she might have helped McCain rather than embarrassing him, and left that campaign a national player instead of a national punchline. Instead of conning the media with staged hockey-mom stuff about chopping reindeer sausage for chili in the kitchen in Wasilla, she could have boned up on policy and actually answered questions.
Lucky for Palin it turns out that 13 years later, taking questions from the press or being qualified is less important than it’s ever been. The stars in the Republican firmament are idiots, lunatics and creeps like Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, whose Florida wingman Joel Greenberg recently pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and last month asked a federal judge for more time to implicate others he hung out with in hopes of reducing his sentence.
But no one will out-fringe Palin, who self-defines as a pit bull with lipstick. Moderates praying that she runs again could be as wrong as they were when they underestimated Ronald Reagan’s appeal. With her winks and put downs and you betchas, she mesmerized the MAGA crowd back when Donald Trump was still a registered Democrat (after seeing her act, he became a Republican in 2009).
And Trump’s endorsement isn’t out of the question. Loyalty isn’t his long suit and he has no ties to Tshibaka. To get the immediate satisfaction of wounding Murkowski quickly, he would have endorsed a dressed moose. He likes Palin, cut from the same Kardashian cloth as he. As soon as he came down the golden escalator and announced his improbable candidacy, you betcha, she was there for him.
When McCain tapped Palin, she wasn’t a celebrity as Trump was, or, say, Matthew McConaughey is now as he toys with running against Gov Greg Abbott in Texas. Running made her a star, not the other way around. Trump may soon be doing the reverse as his power among Republicans continues to wane, recharging his fame in order to give himself a chance to run again or at least stay out of prison.
Palin, who’s been making pocket money selling video messages on Cameo for $199 a pop, told Ahn that she partly blamed her 2008 loss on evangelicals who went wobbly because of the “caricature” of her (thanks, Tina).
“If I were going to announce,” she warned, “what I would do is say ‘OK, you guys better really be there for me this time.’”
And what about God, into whose hands she put that 2008 election? He went wobbly too. No doubt she’ll also give the Lord another chance.