Audio of the brawl in Alaska involving Sarah Palin and her brood clearly illustrates the extent of the former vice-presidential candidate’s fall from grace. The expletive laden track sounds more like an episode of Cops than the doings of a prominent politician. But the crass and ridiculous side of the Alaska fist-fight story is more interesting when viewed in light of former Governor Palin’s past. Back in 2008, she was the family-values, Mamma Bear, straight-talking candidate for the GOP. Now she is the classless distant relative that no one wants to invite to parties. Effectively exiled from mainstream Republican politics after a series of mishaps, the image of her six years ago is utterly shattered.
The rise of Sarah Palin has its basis in family values and moral courage. As governor of Alaska, she was initially seen as a force for good. As the mother of five children, she cultivated an image of herself as an upstanding conservative whose very existence was a contrast to the immoral, dissolute rundown of American values. Back in 2008, she was described by Anchorage pollster Marc Hellenthal as “the symbol of purity in an atmosphere of corruption.” Her refusal to abort her youngest son, Trig, when it was revealed that he had Down Syndrome was set up during the 2008 campaign as an act of heroism and courage.
While Sarah Palin does have her own kind of courage and her dedication to her children is admirable, much of that original image is gone. The brawl at a birthday party in Alaska is just the latest example of how the facade of respectability has fallen away. In the newly released audio of the police interviews at the scene, Palin’s own voice can be heard countless times berating cops and accusing them of targeting her family. When the police officers allowed certain people to leave after giving their statements, Palin approached cops and shrilly asked why they were letting the bad guys get away. In the story from her side, her family had been assaulted for no reason, her daughter abused by the home owner, and her family had only lashed out in self defense. The Palins were the good guys and everyone else was the villain.
That story line is much the same as the one she tried to put forward in 2008 when the media began to increase its scrutiny of her candidacy. The infamous Katie Couric interview was just one example. Palin’s poor showing damaged her image and the Republican campaign. Revealed as someone who had no clue about the issues that were facing the nation, her defense was to attack Couric as a liberal media hack. Instead of a substantive interview, it was “gotcha journalism” designed to attack her and, by extension, the “good guys” of the GOP.
That was hers story then and that is the story she is sticking to now. While the audio reveals much about Sarah Palin’s character when it comes to dealing with reality, the desertion of her by the GOP is the real indicator of her fall from grace. John McCain, once her staunchest defender, refused to support her calls for impeachment of President Obama and has little to say about her since the end of the 2008 election. Even FOX News has put distance between themselves and Palin, leading her to create her own television channel online. As for the GOP voters, they have not felt inclined to make her internet adventure a success by tuning in. She is no longer a force in the party and has become nothing more than a punchline.
The brawl episode, however, is an important moment in the new impression of Sarah Palin that America has. The label of “troublemakers” might be one that can now be applied to her and her family. Unreasonable and ridiculous will certainly be leveled against her. But lest anyone think that these are merely the prejudiced rants of her political opposition, the homeowner who had to deal with the Palin clan offers another side. “These Palins running up here on my property acting like they own it is not gonna fly with me,” he told police, adding that he did not care what their name was either. In the opinion of those who directly know them, Sarah Palin and her brood suffer from an attitude of entitlement that is purely obnoxious.
That more than anything clashes with the image she sought to cultivate of a humble, hardworking person back in 2008. Other incidents such as “Troopergate” and the recent news that her SuperPac does not donate much of its millions to the candidates it supports have also damaged her honest image. While the fight has received more headlines, that last accusation is more substantial. More of the multi-millions in donations she has received have gone to keeping up her public image than to actually helping the GOP. Palin obviously has her own agenda that has nothing to do with selflessly supporting the cause of the “good guys.”
Overall, the public and private image that Palin put forward as a values driven, honest hardworker has been completely debunked. Her fall from grace is not due to an actual targeting of Sarah Palin, but to the revelations of her true nature that have put people off. Entitlement, corruption, fakeness and hostility have all been shown as the real woman behind the Mamma Grizzly monicker. Whereas she was once a representative of the common Republican, she has become the image of a classless and tasteless bad neighbor. Most Republicans, it is to be hoped, are not like her and do not want to be associated with her. The next question, then, is how long will they continue to allow her any time in the public view before they try to stop her tarnishing the good name of Republican values?
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury