Is Sarah Palin the female Ross Perot?

by on August 30, 2008 at 1:37 pm in Political Science | Permalink

Palin is being compared to Dan Quayle and Clarence Thomas but I think Ross Perot may be the more apt citation (the rest goes under the fold)... 

Palin has an outside, straight talker, pro-reform, true blooded
American, take no prisoners image much as Perot did.  (A second point of comparison is Arnold Schwarznegger, with some obvious differences.)  And she has only begun to cultivate that image.  Do
you recall how much impact Perot had on the American people? 

course if Perot actually had had the chance to be President, the
results probably would not have been pretty.  He would have been forced
to act like "just another politician," as has been the case with Arnold because in fact the job revolves around knowing how to govern. 

There is one biographical fact about Palin’s life that the critics
(Drum, DeLong, Yglesias, Klein, Sullivan and Kleiman are among the ones I read)
are hardly touching upon.  I mean her decision to have a Downs child
instead of an abortion.  This is the fact about her life and it will be viewed as such from now through November and perhaps beyond. 

If only for this reason, she will be seen as a candidate who stands on principle.  I don’t think the critics are sufficiently appreciating how tired the American people are of candidates who say one thing and do another and who abandon their principles at the first provocation.  This is a deep and very strong current and it runs through virtually every group of American political voters.  Because of her decision to have a Downs child, many voters will not view Sarah Palin in a cynical light, no matter what the critics say.  No story about firing a state trooper will break that seal.

In my jaded view, "politicians who break their word, violate their ideals, and do not follow through on their promises" is not one of the major problems in American politics.  In fact it’s often good that political promises are forgotten in the light of the realities.  So the American obsession with political promise-keeping does not resonate with me.  But the American people have been hungry for a "promise keeper, ideals believer" for decades and when was the last time they actually got one?

By the way, my mom’s first reaction to the nomination (hi mom!) was
that other mothers of "different" children (what exactly is the right word here?) would very much identify
with Palin and view her life as validating theirs and thus support her.

Go away and watch a Frank Capra movie and think about Palin again.  Larry Ribstein gets it.

I do recognize and indeed emphasize that this analysis requires that she is good on TV.  I give that p = 0.63.  I’ll also give p = 0.13 that she ends up off the ticket, but most of that chance comes from her deciding she needs to spend the time with her kids.

Addendum: The best argument against the pick is this, although it does not much revise my priors.

a student of economics August 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Ross Perot built a couple of multi billion dollar companies and said he would just “open up the hood and get in there and fix the country’s problems.” He used lots charts and graphs in his talks. He was all about being a super competent and demanding businessman who could get things done.

Sarah Palin was the former beauty queen and part-time mayor of a small town who shops at the local grocery store with her child on her hip. Her image is about being in touch with normal, average American with simple values and not lots of experience, or taint, from business or gov’t.

I can see how both images might be appealing to certain voters, but they don’t seem very similar to me.

S. Weynard Miller August 30, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. Sarah Palin thinks both evolution and creationism should be taught in schools.

I rest my case.

Patrick R. Sullivan August 30, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Weird comparison. Palin is actually an elected official with a track record. Perot was just a big mouthed tycoon.

Richard Sharpe August 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Has anyone investigated in what was she was involved in firing the state trooper? When did she communicate on the subject with the State Troopers? When was she in office, things like that?

She seems like far too principled a person to do such a thing, if you ask me.

Frank August 30, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Can I repost this here (as I like my analogy more and more)? Palin is like Harry Truman, the haberdasher. Harry never went to college. He did two years of law school; no degree. His “judgeship” of Jackson County was a head administrative position. The population of Jackson County today is approximately the same as the population of Alaska today. He did serve as an officer in World War I.

How many days into office before he had to deal with Uncle Joe? And did he get it right? And didn’t he get MacArthur right?

thehova August 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Just after I commented on how shrill and sad Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to Palin has been, Ross Douthat posted this:

I’m having trouble reading Andrew Sullivan. I’m done with him.

Jim Gannon August 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm

In fact it’s often good that political promises are forgotten in the light of the realities.

Agreed, our current president is a man who sticks to his promises about staying in Iraq. How many of us praise him for his stick-to-it-iveness. Not me.

Anonymous August 30, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Sarah Palin thinks both evolution and creationism should be taught in schools.

Except she’s not running for school board….

Surely Palin knew that having a down syndrome baby would be a credibility indicator, so that makes her decision less of a true credibility indicator.

Ai yi yi – not everyone is as cynical as you are.

And I’m curious – how do you plan to have a child with Down Syndrome?

The problem with your point is she was pro-life before she knew she was carrying a child with Downs. And having the baby is consistent with that.

I have a few friends who are evangelicals: and they have gone from being mildly interested in the election to McCain-Palin supporters.

The left was already revved up. Now the conservative base is getting revved up, too. The next 66 days are going to be *very* entertaining.

RCinProv August 30, 2008 at 2:54 pm

She is like Harriet Meiers, only less qualified.

But she has one thing in common with Ross Perot: he lost, and she will too.

Wil all due respect, your economic analysis on thsi blog is often terrific and always engaging, but your political analysis is often weak and uninspired.

OneEyedMan August 30, 2008 at 3:05 pm

MS, not so odd. In 2006 Alaska had a per capita income of $38,138 while Arkansas had one of 28,473. Rich states tend to have more expensive governments, if only because high cost of living makes it more expensive to employ people. Being a huge state with low population means fewer people to spread large fixed costs of state capital like roads, Finally, large state oil revenues lower the apparent cost of government to tax payers, and so it isn’t a surprise that voters ask for more of it. They see the benefits but not so clearly the costs.

MS August 30, 2008 at 3:26 pm

OneEyedMan, point taken but still. My back of the envelope math tells me Alaska state budget per capita is almost 8 times that of Arkansas, give or take.

MS August 30, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Not saying it is her fault but look at this graph:

The risk of Down Syndrome skyrockets past 40. At 45 it is 3.6%. I’d put it in the same category as drinking or smoking during pregnancy.

BoscoH August 30, 2008 at 3:49 pm

I think the other fact could very well turn out to be her trooper gate. There is a good jump off point with transcripts to police intervews and timelines here. My reading of it is that she had an abusive, dangerous, a-hole of a brother-in-law who was a state trooper and who was threatening her family and before she was governor, she took it to his superiors. Noticing how the state trooper bureaucracy just did everything it could to protect and cover up one of its own, this actually plays into her ballbuster take-no-prisoners reformer story. She stood up for a good principle on this one, namely that law enforcement officers ought not be driving drunk, threatening their wives, and tasering their kids. How does anyone fault her for that???

Here is an email she sent before she was governor. She and her husband even hired a PI to investigate an incident at a bar, presumably to bolster her sister’s divorce case. But to see how the state just moves the trooper from spot to spot without dealing with what are some obvious issues is just disgusting. Good for Palin for using something she knew about as a litmus test for whether any reform was occurring.

will mcbride August 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Does she know anything about economics? Or does she freely admit like McCain that she knows nothing?

Steve Sailer August 30, 2008 at 4:43 pm

All the nerds who love cute girls who like guns (see every Angelina Jolie movie ever made) are swooning for her.

Hondo August 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Regarding Palin as a test of McCain’s judgemen: Obama selected Jim Johnson, who later had to step down after alligations of financial impropriety, to help steer his VP selection committee. The “poor judgement” argument cuts both ways. Add on top of that the fact that he wound up picking a guy who has been a repeat failure when it comes to presidential politics — even among registered Democrats.

matt wilbert August 30, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Given the low number of successful politicians who seem to consistently apply their supposed principles, I think it is unjustified to believe that such consistency is important to many voters.

steve August 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Hmmm. I would have thought Tyler would oppose her windfall profits tax.


BoscoH August 30, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Pio, If this goes anywhere, Palin will simply say that she wanted the state troopers cleaned up, she had personal anecdotal evidence that there were some serious problems that the union and the bureaucracy just put a lid on, and she saw no evidence that the guy she appointed was cleaning house like he was supposed to. On the national scene, if this issue becomes a problem for you, then your for police officers tasering their kids. At worst, this is a Checkers moment.

Axis August 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I think standing on principle is a notion politicians should abandon. Every situation has its own particulars, and may call for a different solution than what the politician may have once preached. Politicians are people just like anyone else, and change, both intellectually and politically as they get older and more experienced.

I can think of one politician who promised that he would not end slavery if it meant avoiding the coming civil war. Later, he decided that ending slavery was a necessary part of putting back together the United States. That politician was arguably our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

KP August 30, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I can’t remember Ross Perot having to decide whether or not to abort his baby because of Down’s Syndrome.

And honestly, it’s been really disgusting to me to see people use that kid as political plus. “Oh, she’s so brave!” It’s like the right wing is tired of hiding behind the flag and has now decided to hide behind children.

And I have to question her decision to run for VP after just giving birth to said baby 4 months ago. My mother was horrified-”how could you run so soon? That baby needs you!”

That just shows you what her family actually values.

gottabekidding August 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm

“I haven’t seen anyone mention that perhaps Palin bears some responsibility for the child having Down Syndrome in the first place. Doesn’t the risk go up drastically when the mother is in her late 30′s? She was 44 when the baby was born!”

And this is the second most ridiculous thing I’ve read in a long time. Seriously, how can people even think such idiotic things?

Mike August 30, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Is this:

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

REALLY so out there?

Besides in Alaska (often white) teachers have to respond to pressures from (often non-white) cultural influences. This is not nonsense. When teaching about the land bridge migration in rural Alaska a couple years back I was told that the elders say otherwise. The Yup’ik elders of this particular girl said that humans came from the earth and always lived in Alaska. So do you stick with western science and piss off the community or do you ignore science and teach folk tales? You do the best you can to teach both.

Maybe that is what she meant and maybe it isn’t, but I can tell you as a classroom teacher it isn’t as easy as it seems from the outside.

Bernard Yomtov August 30, 2008 at 7:32 pm

REALLY so out there?

Yes. It really is.

It indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of science and a willingness to damage students’ education to cater to religious fanaticism.

glh17 August 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Palin solidifies the south/southwest for McCain. She follows the Bible, does sports, takes out her own meat, looks great, and is life-time NRA. Other than maybe Gretchen Wilson, he made the best choice possible.

Lord August 30, 2008 at 9:08 pm

A very poor comparison. Perot ran for president, from the outside, against the establishment. Palin was picked for vice president, is as close as you can get to the social conservatives that dominate the party, and is running to reinforce that. Perot was singularly focused on economic issues. All we know of Palin is she is a social conservative, is willing to confront others corruption, doesn’t mind windfall profit taxes on energy, and is not much of an environmentalist. Much the party line if not the party modus operandi. It is more McCain’s judgment that is suspect.

Former Alaskan August 30, 2008 at 9:29 pm

I know Sarah Palin professionally, although I wouldn’t describe myself as a close friend. My quick take is that she’s short on elected experience, but has been politically active for about 15 years. She reminds me a bit of Reagan. Not a deep thinker but absolutely committed to her beliefs and fearless to the point of a fault. She never lays down the bunt but patiently waits for the right pitch and then swings for the fence. She is far more politically savvy than people give her credit and the democrats better not underestimate her.

Anonymous August 30, 2008 at 10:09 pm

As of August 30, 2008, 5 pm PST, the most obnoxious blogger in the world has posted on Obama’s VP pick but not McCain’s….

Frank August 30, 2008 at 10:35 pm

This thing about not knowing what a VP does has been ghosting around the blogosphere since yesterday. For Christ’s sake, doesn’t everyone know that a VP’s job is to do absolutely nothing until the boss kicks the bucket?

Mike August 30, 2008 at 11:09 pm

You realize that “science” at most schools is just regurgitating facts with little or no “theory of science” involved. Experiments are recipes and if an interesting result is found it doesn’t count unless it is the “correct” interesting result.

I love this notion that this is corrupting the purity of science classes that sold out for easy grading a long long time ago.

I just don’t see someone that says “yes, acknowledge this popular notion exists”. In the damming quote I don’t see her saying give equal time. I don’t see her saying teach creationism over evolution. I see her saying “teach both”. That really isn’t the fast road to a fundamentalist state.

I’m no Palin fan, partially because what I see as a typical Anchorage-is-all-that-matters attitude that a lot of people in the valley have.

Careless August 30, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Finally, it seems that the youth vote is swinging back to the “left” — a boon to Obama. In the 1980s, many under 25s were more right-leaning. This demographic moved slightly more to the left under Clinton but Gore could not keep them. Now, it seems that many in that age group are rejecting the “right”. Palin can do little to stop this trend (assuming she is on board to attract this demographic).

Comparing college students 10 years ago to those of today is like comparing the people at the two national conventions. They’re about that far apart (but shifted to the left).

Zephyrus August 30, 2008 at 11:48 pm

I don’t understand the cartoon. Is it saying that KKK members support Obama? Obama supporters are like the KKK?

Max August 31, 2008 at 12:43 am

The left has spent so much time in their echo chamber that they are deaf to the sounds of the real world. Sarah Palin is from the real world and most people hear her just fine.

BoscoH August 31, 2008 at 2:09 am

Well Zeph, you’re the guy here who didn’t get the cartoon. The point of which is that the only people who don’t support Obama are against him because they are racist. How could that not be obvious to you?

Andrew August 31, 2008 at 4:18 am

She can get killer childcare in D.C. That’s not an issue. VP will probably be a pay increase and work reduction.

The problem with the political promises is not the breaking them, it’s the making them. It’s becoming obvious to me, and I assume more obvious to others which promises are dubious from the get-go.

I think you (Tyler) are getting warmer. The media talks of experience, but I don’t think they know what they are talking about. I think this issue is one reason why governors are preferred. They actually have to do something other than bump their gums. That’s why Congress experience doesn’t get full credit.

She’s as good on TV as much as she doesn’t sound like a politician. And part of sounding like a politician is speaking facts and not promising the moon. So far, so good.

On the other hand, how depressing that we need to nominate a VP from the state just to get done such a no-brainer as drilling for oil.

Anonymous August 31, 2008 at 7:24 am

I challenge you to say with a straight face: Out of EVERY SINGLE American in this country, Sarah Palin is the best qualified, most capable person to hold the office of Vice President of the United States of America.

Mug’s game: I challenge you to say with a straight face: Out of EVERY SINGLE American alive at the time, _________ (fill in name of all previous VPs) was the best qualified, most capable person to hold the office of Vice President of the United States of America.


meter August 31, 2008 at 10:00 am

These comments just confirm that dumb, faith-based people support dumb, faith-based candidates.

Stan August 31, 2008 at 11:22 am

If McCain wins Sarah Palin will be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and the heart will belong to a 72 year old cancer survivor. Her finger will be on the nuclear trigger at a time of rising tension with Putin’s Russia. She knows nothing about national and international affairs, and her politics are extremist even by the standards of Limbaugh and Hannity. She’s a hick with a mediocre education and a mediocre mind. Apparently she appeals to other hicks, like the yokel who just quoted Buckley’s joke about the Harvard faculty. The most staggering thing about all this is the respectful words about Ms. Palin expressed by Republican intellectuals, an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one. This is really a low point in American political life.

Anonymous August 31, 2008 at 11:30 am

And the last two commments just confirm that bigoted insults are all the left really has to bring to the conversation.

Plaxico August 31, 2008 at 12:05 pm

To offer some anecdotal data on Palin and her most recent child, it may not actually appeal to pro-life candidates. My background is from a lower middle class, rural, strong republican leaning small town. After being home this labor day weekend, I had the chance to hear firsthand the thoughts of the conservative base (which includes my own mother). Palin is given much praise in the media for not having an abortion; a decision that establishes credibility. But to the townspeople this decision is a no-brainer. Instead they were voicing concern for the needs of the child, and that being the vice president was too demanding for a parent with a special needs child.

odograph August 31, 2008 at 12:58 pm

The fact is, no one in this race is a liberal, at least not since Kucinich dropped out.

My score on that test is center-libertarian:

Economic Left/Right: -0.62
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.87

(Maybe those thinking Obama is far left should take that test, and see how far right they are.)

It’s old, tired, and wrong to say Liberal, or as some did in the other thread, “Marxist/Communist.” Geez Louise there aren’t any Marxist/Communist in China or Russia anymore. Everybody gets the power of the market for wealth creation.

That includes Obama, who has pretty good cred as an economic centrist.

Anonymous August 31, 2008 at 1:13 pm

I challenge you to say with a straight face: Out of EVERY SINGLE American in this country, Sarah Palin is the best qualified, most capable person to hold the office of Vice President of the United States of America.

Mug’s game: I challenge you to say with a straight face: Out of EVERY SINGLE American alive at the time, _________ (fill in name of all previous VPs) was the best qualified, most capable person to hold the office of Vice President of the United States of America.


So you think bad decisions of the past can be used to justify this one?

Palin is clearly unqualified for the job. Some may argue that Obama is equally unqualified, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that she definitely is.

Being a part time mayor of a 6’000 people town has no relevance to handling issues like nuclear proliferation or Russia’s encroachment in Georgia. If you’re counting this as “executive experience” to supersede that of Obama, well I think your judgement has be clouded by an infatuation for conservative values.

Anonymous August 31, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I challenge you to say that Obama is the most qualified black man to run for President. He is probably the most unqualified.

Palin stood up to corrupt Republicans in Alaska. Obama has pandered to the worst elements in the Illinois democrats. He endorsed Daley for Mayor. Daley had 20 years to clean up Chicago and did nothing. Chicago has one of the worst police departments in the country. More city employees has been sent to jail in the last 5 years than in last 50.

OK. Let’s talk economics. If drilling for oil can put thousands of people to people to work and not cost the taxpayers a nickel, why not do it? Who’s talking ideology now? Sending $700 billion to foreign oil companies to subsidize foreign oil workers, does that make any sense? No, not unless you are an ideologue who says it is immoral to drill for oil.

Why do you have to force people to join Social Security? Why do you have to force people to join a labor union? Why do you have to force people to contribute to public schools? If you ideas are so good, why do you use coercion? And why are the democrats trying to force people to government health insurance?

If this isn’t ideological I don’t know what is….

BoscoH August 31, 2008 at 4:02 pm

“I would rather be governed by the the first 200 names in the Wasilla phone book, than by the Harvard faculty.”

Me too. I actually spent a couple weeks of vacation in Wasilla in the summer of 1992, visiting a cousin. The people there are out of this world. Out of this world nice. Out of this world connected to the land — the big game, the weather, etc. I’d add one caveat to your statement. There was a weird guy outside of town (East Parks Highway) who had a whole bunch of conspiracy signs attached to trucks he drove into Anchorage and who believed he had captured a UFO and it was in his makeshift UFO hanger. I don’t want that guy in charge of FEMA. But everyone else there were pretty much the most interesting, thoughtful, and respectful people I’ve ever met.

odograph August 31, 2008 at 5:05 pm

OK. Let’s talk economics. If drilling for oil can put thousands of people to people to work and not cost the taxpayers a nickel, why not do it?

How many large US reserves do we have left? Would this be drilling the last? How would it look if we drew up a list, said this reserve for us, this for our kids, and this for our grandkids?

I don’t doubt that we’ll use every drop of American oil over time, but I question drilling it “all” now, and what that will do to us.

If we are in a bad spot with respect to Arab oil now, when we have reserves, where will we (or our grandkids) be when we’ve used all ours?

I’ve been to Alaska, hung with Wasilla folk too. Their perspective is that they’ve got lots of everything (wildlife and natural resources). Well, so did we, down in the lower 48 … until we used them all.

Happy Camper August 31, 2008 at 6:31 pm

A younger looking Harriet Miers


Zephyrus August 31, 2008 at 8:43 pm

_, you still don’t answer my question. I can go through a litany of things that Obama has done that gives me confidence in him. Beyond his manifest intelligence and ability to look at himself critically, he’s pushed many important bills, against heavy opposition, through both the state legislature and Congress. If you still want the same listing of these things that are always provided when people ask “what has Obama accomplished?” I can oblige.

But the point is, Obama has done these things. They satisfy me, and they don’t satisfy you. Fine, I don’t care that much. Just answer my question: what’s an executive action that Palin has taken, as part-time mayor or in her year and a half as governor, that gives me insight into what drives her and the qualities she has that recommends her to the Presidency.

Anonymous August 31, 2008 at 10:40 pm

I really don’t think the Palin nomination has brought the best out of Andrew Sullivan.

Not yet anyway.

While in years past, America attracted top notch politicians, today, we’re selecting candidates from the bottom of the barrel.

Like Obama, Biden, McCain, Palin, and all the rest?

OK, I’ll bite: how do you define a “top notch politician” as opposed to just a plain ole politician?

Freddie August 31, 2008 at 11:07 pm

I know you aren’t making this argument, and are only saying it will work. I still think it’s stupid.

wufnik August 31, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Not to muddy the waters on yet another vastly entertaining string of comments on lots of stuff totally unrelated to the original post, but here’s a question: suppose it turns out that the baby is not hers? Which, sadly, seems more and more plausible the more one digs. So, if having this child might convince Americans of something about Palin’s grit, or authenticity, or whatever, what, if anything, changes if it turns out it’s not really hers? This seems a bit more, I don’t know, personal than just not telling the truth about the bridge to nowhere. Does anyone (including Tyler) think it would change anyone’s mind?

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