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11.22.10

Sarah Palin's Media Strategy

With a new bestseller, a blockbuster TV show, and her kids popping up everywhere, Sarah Palin is changing politics forever, says Meghan McCain—and she’s either brilliant or insane.

Unless you have been living under a rock, the complete and total media saturation of every single outlet with all things Sarah Palin, all the time, has hit a proverbial fever pitch these past few weeks. Between the premiere of the Mark Burnett-produced TLC reality show Sarah Palin’s Alaska and the launch of her book, America by Heart, today, she is simply everywhere. Her omnipresence and the questions about her future are seeping into any and all conversations even remotely political—and now everything pop cultural, too. It is impossible to turn on a news or entertainment television show without questions about Bristol’s rise to dance prominence (with the help of alleged online rigging by the Tea Party), daughter Willow’s anti-gay slurs on Facebook, and, of course, her hunting on her new TV show itself, featuring every member of the Palin family. Sarah Palin has become a societal addiction and the media and our whole culture are constantly looking for our next fix.  

After watching Sarah Palin’s Alaska, all I could think of is that when Mark Halperin named his history of the last election Game Change, he wasn’t just being metaphorical. The last election was the ultimate game change in what we demand of how our candidates will run for the presidency. Americans are apparently going to insist that possible future presidents appear on their own reality shows, in every medium, with every member of their family. These are the times we live in.

Wanna run for president? Quit your job, find a hot Hollywood reality-show producer, make sure your children also appear on hit reality shows, saturate every entity with tweets and Facebook updates on every conceivable subject. I dare anyone in the news to not report on one of her tweets. She doesn’t do interviews because she doesn’t need to. She can Twitter and Facebook away and then the press goes and reports on her tweets. It is so monopolized at this point that for me it steps dangerously into the realm of some strange science-fiction movie from the '60s. Saturate the American public until we forget that anything or anyone else exists or is even an option in 2012. There are no other choices, because, can’t you see, she is the only choice.

This is her strategy, and yes, she is running for president. See her recent interview with Barbara Walters, in which she stated that she believes she “could beat President Obama in 2012” if you need any other assurances. In excerpts from her book, she attacks Obama concerning Reverend Jeremiah Wright, saying, “But is it racist to believe in the principles of the American founding? To revere the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights and to invoke the 10th Amendment? The answer is important, because it speaks to the kind of country we are, and the kind of country we were meant to be. Did our founding values produce the country of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s rants?” Trust me, those are fighting words and hits Obama in what is still his political jugular. The paranoia that Obama isn’t a “real American” or that he doesn’t respect the Constitution in the same way that Palin (and her allies) do will serve her quite well going forward.  

The way she is currently running for president is either sheer genius or ultimate insanity.

As the left-wing media crucifies this woman and the right-wing media saints her, the only result is that she is becoming more and more powerful. The fascination with her is that President Obama may have been the first pop culture, American Idol president. Sarah Palin is the first presidential candidate without boundaries. Picture Mitt Romney doing a reality show, showcasing his gorgeous family. Yep, impossible. This is a man who continues to dodge questions concerning his religion and the Mormon Church, not a man who would allow cameras to tape intimate moments inside his house.  

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I want the media to imagine the next election cycle. Palin could hypothetically skip the debates and any national interviews with anyone other than Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck. The way she is running for president is either sheer genius or ultimate insanity. How easy it is to forget that running for president, no matter how big of a star the person running is, has historically included a lot of grassroots work. At some point, Palin will have to go meet the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Take it from someone who knows, there is nothing more intense, grueling, and blissfully democratic. The citizens of these states take their early voting status more seriously than the rest of us do and that will be the great cliffhanger. If those citizens only need a gorgeously produced reality show, beautiful family, and well-narrated talking points in order to give someone an opening on the road to the White House, then say hello to President Palin. In the meantime, what she is doing is brilliant. She has positioned herself both politically and culturally as the first, last, and only stop in the national political dialogue for predictions in 2012.

Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com. Her new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, was published in August.