Having spent part of the week listening to pundits on television try to explain Glenn Beck’s tribute to Elmer Gantry last weekend, I confess the most interesting talk has been surrounding Sarah Palin, who was featured at the Beckfest and who many pundits believe is going to run for president.
The talk is interesting because most of the pundits don’t have the foggiest idea why Sarah Palin is so attractive to some folks. They just don’t get it. And because they don’t get it, they mistakenly interpret many of her moves conventionally.
For instance, she is headed for Iowa this month as the headliner of Iowa Republicans’ annual Ronald Reagan fundraiser, an appearance many see as preparation for a presidential run.
No it’s not. She isn’t going to Iowa because she wants to run for president.
As I have said repeatedly while discussing Palin with intoxicated liberals, she is never going to run for president—I guarantee it*—and the only reason she is keeping that idea alive is to cash in on it. There are a lot of gullible conservatives out there—many of them went to Washington last weekend to prove it—and there is still a lot of money to be made.**
I did finally hear someone on television who does understand at least part of the Palin phenomenon. This morning on Morning Joe, Gabriel Sherman, who recently wrote an article for New York magazine titled, “The Case for Why Sarah Palin Won’t Run for President,” said this:
To make a lot of money, she needs to be seen as a viable presidential candidate…her business model depends on people like us thinking she’s going to run for president.
Later, Sherman confessed to not knowing who Sarah Palin “is,” saying she is unconventional, and he then offered this:
…there’s nothing about her any of us can sort of wrap our heads around.
Oh yes there is Mr. Sherman.
In 1986, Pat Robertson, the strange evangelist that created the 700 Club, announced that he was prepared to run for President of the United States, not surprisingly, as a Republican. But, he said, he would only seek the nomination if,
…three million registered voters have signed petitions telling me that they will pray — that they will work — that they will give toward my election.
Needless to say, he managed to get the three million people, along with an ark-load of cash for his campaign.
His platform was the usual conservative stuff, including abolishing the Department of Education, a position enthusiastically embraced even today by conservative folks here in education-rich Southwest Missouri.
But my point about Robertson’s candidacy wasn’t his run-of-the-conservative-mill political platform, but his identity. Who he was. Or at least who people thought he was and what he represented. That’s what made him a candidate, albeit not a viable one.
Obviously, no one with a lick of sense thought Pat Robertson had a chance to be president. I was a die-hard conservative evangelical Christian at the time, and even I didn’t believe he could get elected. I was somewhat brainwashed, but not somewhat crazy. And I had a pretty good understanding of politics.
But I knew people who did believe he could be president. And who believed it sincerely. Who believed that Pat Robertson represented our best hope to return America to her Christian roots. Here’s the way Robertson explained it in 1986:
For the past three years, people have come to me and said, “your vision for America is our vision, will you be our champion and stand tall for-the values millions of us share. Will you run for the presidency of the United States?”
What began as a trickle has become a torrent. Tens of thousands of wonderful people on their feet saying “Go for it.”
Among the people I knew who believed God wanted Robertson to be president, was a dear woman named Leona. She sat at my kitchen table one night and told me how God would miraculously move upon America and “Pat’ would soon be in the White House. Prayer, of course, was essential.
And as I listened to her I realized that she was deadly serious. That her faith in God and her faith in God to “restore” our nation were unshakeable. She didn’t understand or even care to understand how politics worked. She knew God and knew He was capable of raising up a leader to save us from our otherwise ungodly fate.
And she believed Pat Robertson was that leader. She knew Pat Robertson was “one of us,” a committed Christian who believed, like Leona did, in the power of prayer and the power of Christianity to turn our nation around.
And that is why Sarah Palin is able to draw large crowds wherever she goes, why she is adored by millions of Americans. Like my old friend Leona, they relate to her in terms only committed evangelical Christians can understand. She is one of them. A God-fearer who may not know much about the throw-weight of ICBMs, but knows our Heavenly Father, and knows what ails us as a country.
The people who buy Palin’s books and attend her events and watch her on TV—who are making her wealthy beyond her wildest Wasilla dreams—share her advertised worldview: that something is wrong with America and only godly people can fix it.
Perhaps Palin will be His instrument, they hope. And Palin, being more $hrewd than some of us give her credit for, knows she must keep that hope alive, at least until her coffers are full.
“Let’s restore America!” Palin shouted at the throngs last weekend. Restore? Yes, restore. “To bring back to or put back into a former or original state,” says Merriam-Webster.
And every pale-faced conservative Christian in America knows what she means.
*Three reasons why she won’t run:
1) Too much work. Fooling viewers on the Republican News Network doesn’t require sitting up late at night studying arms control treaties. Running for president would. And she didn’t exactly race across the finish line as Governor of Alaska, did she?
2) A real run for the White House would require time away from money-making activities. And she can’t afford to waste one minute in her attempt to separate every single Christian conservative in America from his or her disposable income—before Obama gets it all.
3) She knows she can’t win. Polls consistently show that she has high negatives and that only about one-fourth of the country believe she is qualified to be president.
** I do want to hedge a bit and say that if Palin figures out a way to make even more money by running for president, she might do it in that case.