Palin's strange move may prove smart after all

Gordon Stewart
Gordon C. Stewart is pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, Minn.
Submitted photo

Until hearing Sarah Palin's farewell speech last weekend, I didn't know that it's second nature for a mother grizzly bear to protect her cubs by leaving them.

"[W]hen I took the oath to serve you, I promised ... remember I promised to steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state like that grizzly guards her cubs, as a mother naturally guards her own. And I will keep that vow wherever the road may lead."

Watching Palin, I couldn't help but think of Jesse Ventura, the anti-hero whose down-home kick-the-bums-out straight-talk campaign for governor of Minnesota defeated two seasoned career politicians. Jesse was a grizzly. Sarah is no grizzly; Sarah is a fox.

The Monday following her resignation announcement, a USA/Gallup Poll contradicted the prevailing view that the governor had just shot herself in the foot. Forty-three percent said they would be "likely" or "somewhat likely" to vote for her for president in 2012. And 53 percent said the media had treated her unfairly.

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Americans don't like politicians. We like people you can trust -- people who say what they think, not what they think we want to hear.

Jesse was the anti-politician. Now that Palin has resigned in midstream because she's tired of "the same old politics as usual," she's the new Jesse -- not just in Alaska, but all across America. Sarah has now defined herself as the anti-politician, the anti-hero too pure for the meanness of partisan politics.

Sarah and Jesse could not be more different on the issues, but they are alike in their appeal to an underlying anger in the American psyche that rolls its eyes at complex sentences and longs for straight talk.

Sarah's conservative social agenda is Jesse's mirror opposite. Yet, in the eyes of some deep part of the American psyche, what joins Sarah and Jesse together is more important than differences of substance.

We long for clarity and simplicity, even though the complex world of the 21st century demands good politics more than ever. Politics is the art of the possible.

It's easy to be an anti-hero -- the talk show host or the politician who resigns because her soul is too pure to be soiled by the sinfulness of politics. It's easier to be the social critic than it is to keep one's integrity in the trenches of America's partisan warfare.

Why would Sarah Palin resign in midstream? Who really knows? The bigger question, in light of her resignation from office, is why 43 percent of those polled said they are likely or somewhat likely to vote for Sarah for president.

If the idea is to appeal to the American disgust with politicians, Sarah's resignation on the grounds that she's tired of politics could be a very smart move. By the time we get to 2012, a decision that now seems absurd and downright dumb might just prove to be dumb like a fox.


Gordon C. Stewart is pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, a regular guest commentator on "All Things Considered," and moderator of the "Shepherd of the Hill Dialogues: examining critical public issues locally and globally."