The student has become the teacher. John McCain has to be wondering what sort of creature he’s created in Sarah Palin, now that he’s relegated to grinning foolishly behind her while she whips the Tea Party crowds into frenzied chants in Arizona. The summer of 2008 seems like a very long time ago.
The picture at left is a little disturbing, somehow. Maybe it’s Palin’s dominatrix outfit; maybe it’s that sly expression, suggesting she knows something the rest of us don’t. Most of all, it seems to validate the idea that the time for consensus and moderation in the Republican party is long past. McCain, who spent the better part of three decades trying to at least act like a thoughtful statesman, will close out his career holding the coats of those who don’t mind a little blood, those who prefer Pyrrhic victory to none at all.
When you have celebrities leading political parties — people like Palin, and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh — it’s dangerous because people like that have nothing to lose and everything to gain by stoking misguided outrage. While this movement devours its young (like David Frum) and its old (like John McCain), they remain quite above it all. They’re not elected and need build no record other than ratings.
Inciting the fringe behind the safety of plexiglass is a pretty lucrative gig. If Rush is worried about anything now, it’s probably that Beck is making him look like a moderate. Palin, on the other hand, has no worries at all. For the moment she literally can’t lose, and in the shambles of the Republican party, her word has become law. It’ll be interesting to see how far she’s willing to go.