The Popularity of Palin

It is hard to imagine that just less than three years ago, nobody knew who Sarah Palin was. Yet, over the course of a few years, Palin has gone from being an obscure governor in an obscure state, to a vice-presidential candidate, political analyst, author, comedian, and now  reality television star. Whether you agree with her politics or not, you must admit that Sarah Palin knows how to promote herself.

Discovery Communications is in the works of finalizing a deal with Palin that will land her with her very own reality television show about Alaska’s wildlife. It is a bit strange that Palin, a person who supports helicopter hunting and drilling for oil in Alaska, would be a nature guide. However, the possible conflict of interest is no problem for the former governor of Alaska, especially when she is pocketing $1.2 million an episode.  Palin is definitely on to something big here – something that could land her a bit of cash and a whole lot of popularity. However, while Palin makes her move in the entertainment industry, many are wondering if she is leaving her political career out to dry. As she moves toward the life of a television star, will she lose her political influence and potential? The answer is no.

Sarah Palin is popular with conservatives hardly for her professionalism or her political insight, but rather because she is a folksy, down-to-earth, just-like-everyone-else hockey mom. In other words she is popular because she talks and acts just like every other average person in America. The genius behind Palin’s move towards the entertainment industry is that Palin literally does not sacrifice anything. Most politicians would lose some credibility as a TV personality because they would be forced to adopt a pseudo-personality that brings in ratings, although there are a few exceptions. That being said, all politicians will lose credibility after becoming a reality TV star simply because it is impossible to sustain the level of professionalism at all times (Rod Blagojevich is not coming back to office in this lifetime).

However, Sarah Palin is the one exception. Her TV gigs will actually make her even more popular with her fans. Fortunately for Palin, all the things that make her appealing as a reality star – the Middle America slang, the catch phrases and metaphors, the inclination towards confrontation, even the dense thinking – also make her appealing as a politician.

The only thing that really does go out the window for Palin is a presidential run in 2012.  But let’s face it – Palin never really had a chance to begin with.  She is too right wing and too dramatic. Even most Republicans have to acknowledge that. She is most influential in politics as a pundit, rather than as a politician. Rather than hold an office in which she can be criticized or held accountable, she is much more successful in the fray acting as a face for the conservative movement to get behind. For Palin, the more noise she makes the more support she gets. Lucky for her this new reality television stunt and her Fox News gig are like a megaphone for her political punditry.

But the biggest winner isn’t the conservative movement or Palin, although both will benefit greatly from this deal. It is Discovery Communications. Liberals will watch the show to make fun of her and conservatives will watch because they look up to her. Either way, people are going to watch the show. Who wouldn’t? This show is going to be even better than “I Love New York.”

Neil Thakor is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at nthakore@uci.edu.