Electable means mature, accomplished, stable—and able to persuade.
Conservatives talked a lot about Ronald Reagan this year, but they have to take him more to heart, because his example here is a guide.All this seemed lost last week on Sarah Palin, who called him, on Fox, "an actor." She was defending her form of policical celebrity—reality show, "Dancing With the Stars," etc. This is how she did it: "Wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in 'Bedtime for Bonzo,' Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor."
Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped
their lids, but I'll voice their consternation to make a larger point.
Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president.
The point is not "He was a great man and you are a nincompoop," though that is true. The point is that Reagan's career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him.
Since I've never been a Reagan fan, I'll simply register my two cents by stating that he did do all of these things, but badly. Palin, on the other hand, has done absolutely nothing except brand herself. An artist friend of mine lamented on Facebook not long ago that he was seeing branding as someting everyone did, and that no one just did the work for the sake of the work. Well, in this hyper-communicative and hyper-connected world, it's so easy to slip into oblivion as one of a billion, but it's also much easier to get noticed. Branding has the power to accomplish both. That Sarah Palin uses TV, Facebook, Twitter, and anything else she can get her megalomaniacal hands on should surprise no one.
Still, she has completely fucked up her brand, probably for life, except for those who revere her. As Ross Douthat wrote in Thursday's NYT:
[G]iven the choice between saying the thing that broadens her appeal and the thing that plays best with the narrower group that already loves her, Palin always, always seems choose the latter. Conservative writers have been giving her advice on how to break out of this box for more than two years now (this week it was Kevin Williamson, imagining how she might boost her credibility as a presidential candidate), and I think at a certain point we all just need to stop playing make-believe and acknowledge that she isn’t interested. The politician ... on Fox News on Tuesday, never giving an inch and blaming everything on the media, is the politician Sarah Palin has become, and wants to be, and seems likely to remain.Douthat's headline refers to her brand of politics as "Palinism." Oh, Brave New World that has such people in it, who can turn complete idiocy into an "ism."