Sarah Palin gave a rip-roaring speech in Wisconsin on Saturday that excoriated President Obama’s deficit spending and took swipes at Republicans inside the Beltway for going along to get along. Superstar real-estate developer Donald Trump has been stealing all the headlines from potential GOP presidential primary competitors recently by going hard to the right and taking on controversial topics. Mrs. Palin’s weekend tour de force to a Tea Party Tax Day rally delivered a simple message: Don’t forget about me; I’m still out here, I’m really conservative, and I have a strong following.
The former Alaska governor’s pep talk reminds why she would be a formidable candidate. Not only did she hammer away at the substance of today’s economic and moral crises, she was exciting. “We’re flat broke but he thinks more solar shingles and really fast trains will magically save us,” she said of Mr. Obama. “So now he’s shouting ‘all aboard’ his bullet train to bankruptcy.” Turning on establishment elephants, she thundered, “We didn’t elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic; we didn’t elect you just to stand back and watch Obama redistribute those deck chairs.” The anger she showed for recent budget deals strikes a raw nerve among important Tea Party voters.
Sounding like a candidate, Mrs. Palin told the Madison, Wis., crowd, “The 2012 elections begin here.” She should be underestimated by the rest of the primary field at their own peril because lots of Americans support her message and the passion with which it’s delivered. Working to appeal to a new, strong conservative brand of feminism that is becoming an important political force – what Mrs. Palin calls Mama Grizzlies – she said, “What we need is for you to stand up, GOP, and fight … GOP leaders need to learn how to fight like a girl.”
It’s too early to know how the Alaskan would fare on the campaign trail, but it’s time to put to rest the simplistic wave of the hand that many use to condescendingly dismiss Mrs. Palin – that is, that she’s unelectable. We’re talking about a public office that has been occupied by Jimmy Carter and Barry Obama, after all. Given the right circumstances, almost anyone can get elected, and Mrs. Palin’s charisma, authentic “woman of the people” quality and common-sense, family-oriented conservatism could get her a lot of the way there. Continued economic malaise will make it hard for Mr. Obama to hoodwink voters to give him another term, which should benefit any GOP nominee.
It’s frightening to contemplate the damage another four years of Obama incompetence, amateurism and tax-and-spend policies would do to America. If there’s a lesson in Mr. Trump’s surge and Mrs. Palin’s sustained popularity, it’s that the Grand Old Party needs to be more bold to tap into the deep frustrations of the public. People are mad. If the Republican Party hopes to take back the presidency in 2012, it will need a candidate that can convince Americans that he – or she – knows it will take real change to turn this country around.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times.