This Is the Way Sarah Palin Ends, Not with a Bang but a Whimper
I have to admit that in the few months immediately leading up to the presidential election of 2008, Sarah Palin provided me with some of the best material I’ve ever had the opportunity to write about and the result was some of the best political stuff to appear on my site, Deus Ex Malcontent. In the years since the 2008 election and the utter evisceration of her and John McCain’s intellectually insulting gambit at the hands of Barack Obama and the American electorate, I continued to bring up Palin, her family of Beverly Hillbillies and whatever new venture they were undertaking together or separately in the name of grifting more money and mileage from their status as political and pop culture celebrities. I did it because it was entertaining — until the point where the Palin shtick became so pathetic and desperate, her patriotic indignation so contrived, that giving it any attention at all merely fueled an unnecessary yet ultimately destructive fire. After a while, the con got old and the act became stale and so it wasn’t even worth commenting on anymore; doing so did more harm than good. For me and a lot of other people, the line with Palin was crossed a couple of years back, but now we can officially say that it’s been crossed by everyone who matters and Sarah Palin has finally fulfilled her destiny of becoming a pop culture has-been. The political version of Paris Hilton. A former reality TV star nobody cares about anymore.
Leave it to Fox News, the network that cranked the amp on John McCain’s once-naïve ingenue to 11 and made her a political force well beyond the pounding she and McCain took in 2008, to be the one to drop the hammer on her career once and for all. It’s practically Shakespearean that the network that was responsible in so many ways for making Palin is now responsible for breaking her. A couple of days ago, Fox News announced that it wasn’t renewing Palin’s contract as a regular contributor, essentially cratering a deal that had kept Palin rolling in money and at least a minor amount of relevance within the conservative movement and which provided her with her own TV studio in her Alaska home. The reason for Fox’s decision is obvious and can’t be questioned by anyone with a brain and a lick of business sense: Palin’s star has fallen. Even before Roger Ailes made the decision to — in parlance I’m sure Palin herself will understand and would normally relish — take Sarah Palin out into the woods with a rifle and put her down, he knew she had become much more trouble to his network than she was worth. He’d called her “stupid” and had dismissed her dabbling with a run for the presidency in 2012 as a waste of time and was looking for an excuse to drop her; her steady decline as a celebrity, despite her best efforts, ultimately gave Ailes all the reason he needed to kiss her goodbye once and for all. Ailes once said that he hired Palin because she was “hot and got ratings”; these days, she isn’t and doesn’t.
Make no mistake: While Sarah Palin isn’t exactly leaving the pop culture landscape she once thundered mightily across with a bang, she’s also not going quietly. It practically goes without saying that Palin is vowing to fight on despite losing her one remaining forum and the one that gave her the biggest bullhorn with which to push her brand. But with the Tea Party’s fortunes having waned significantly — a large percentage of the population now has an unfavorable opinion of the movement and its mouthpieces — and Palin’s own Q-score having dropped into the toilet with most Americans, her options are limited. If you’re a gambler, the smart money’s on Palin going the way of Glenn Beck, Allen West and the rest of the howling maniacs who were the darlings of the tea-bagging insurrection just a few years ago — namely, she’ll try to make herself into an internet star and/or syndicated talk radio host. While social media can provide a quick and easy infrastructure for scamming gullible and resentful aging conservatives out of their money, talk radio continues to be the primary stomping ground of right-wing blowhards. Certainly, neither option allows Palin to trade on one of the most pronounced qualities that made her famous: her looks. But at 48, those looks, like everything else about Palin, are becoming a thing of the past and definitely not something she can rely on anymore.
Have we finally seen the absolute last of Palin? Probably not. Like all new-millennium celebrities of the reality TV variety — spawned overnight and living from their very inception under the threat of being extinguished from the public consciousness just as quickly — Palin will fight tooth and nail against irrelevance. For the most part it’ll be pathetic and sad — like watching child stars, one-hit wonders and the former subjects of popular TLC shows prostrate themselves on VH1′s Celebrity Rehab just for the sake of keeping their name out there somehow. But Sarah Palin will never be what she once was. And for that we can all be thankful.
Our long national nightmare is over. Finally.