I’d like to think, however, that there's more to my doubts about the viability of Palin’s presidential candidacy than that. When it comes to armchair electoral analysis, I’m with Kevin Drum:
But such considerations aren’t foremost in my thoughts. To my mind, what distinguishes Palin from other socially conservative Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee most decisively is the extraordinary degree to which she has been disparaged, and is now being demonized, by smug elites. We’re so used to hearing the disparagement that we tend to forget how extreme it has been. Who else could have moved the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, Wendy Doniger, to say without a trace of embarrassment (in a blog post hilariously entitled “All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They’re Forced on Others”) that “[Palin’s] greatest hypocrisy is her pretense that she is a woman” (my emphasis). Who knew that chromosomes aren't enough?“[S]he's extremely polarizing, she won't get to hide behind Facebook and Twitter if she's running for president, she's never shown much patience for the kind of organization that a presidential run requires, her opponents will be able to make a powerful case that she's unelectable in November, and she seems almost certain to make at least one major gaffe in the early stages of the campaign.
“So I just don't see it.”
It stands to reason that a lot of people who recognize something of themselves in Palin’s story and cultural sensibility are psychologically invested in her maintaining her dignity in the face of elite disdain. When they hear smug liberals deploring the fact that a woman who speaks their language would presume to run for high office, they get the message about how elites feel about them loud and clear.
For many people, then, admiring Palin and rooting for her survival and prosperity as a public figure is an expression of elemental self-respect. It shows that they think more highly of her than of most of the people running her (and, by implication, them) down. Yet it says virtually nothing about whether those people prefer Palin over other Republican presidential candidates, many of whom excite some of the same sympathies because they're the object of smaller quantities of the same elite disdain. Preferring Palin to, say, Romney isn’t a way for rank-and-file Republicans to stand up for themselves.
So I’m betting that, when it comes to nominating presidential candidates, the Republican base that reconciled itself to the candidacies of John McCain and Bob Dole hasn’t changed all that much. Time will tell.