House of Representatives: Sarah Palin tries again | International
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Sarah Palin was already a Trumpist before Trump. His contempt for the media, his unapologetic attitude, his penchant for hoaxes, his climate denialism, his ignorance of foreign policy, his defense of guns and his opposition to abortion marked the 2008 presidential election campaign, when John McCain he chose the then-governor of Alaska as his vice-presidential candidate. Many on the senator’s team blamed her loss to Barack Obama. This Tuesday, 14 years later, Palin is competing to be elected to the House of Representatives. Of course, hand in hand with Trump.
Although the legislative elections are already in November, the only member of the House of Representatives from Alaska died last March at the age of 88, after 49 years occupying that seat: the United States has something of a gerontocracy. Whoever wins at the polls will occupy the seat only until the end of the year. Also this Tuesday are the primaries for the elections on November 8, along with the rest of the country, for the new legislature that will begin in January.
Sarah Palin does not have it easy. In part, because her popularity in Alaska is no longer what it was 15 years ago. And in part, because the peculiar electoral system plays against it. Palin won the primaries for Tuesday’s elections with 27% of the vote, ahead of fellow Republican Nick Begich (19.1%), independent Al Gross (12.6%) and Democrat Mary Peltola (10.1 %) in a vote with fifty options. Those four candidates went on to vote on Tuesday, but Gross has withdrawn, throwing his support behind Peltola, who comes from a Yupik, Alaskan Native village.
The problem for Palin is that Alaska is launching this Tuesday a peculiar preferential voting system. Voters rank the three candidates on their ballot in order of preference. If no one gets more than 50% of the votes, the third is eliminated and the second option of those who voted for him is computed, in a kind of instant second round. The system penalizes the most divisive candidates and Sarah Palin is, even more so with Trump behind her.
Palin complained about this method a few days ago in Dallas (Texas). “In Alaska we have this weird system that was recently adopted, ranked by preference, where it doesn’t matter if you get the most votes. It actually matters if you have the most votes in second and third place, based on how the voters rank. It’s weird, it’s convoluted, it’s complicated and it’s voter suppression,” he said at the conservative conference in which Trump was the main protagonist.
The 58-year-old politician resigned as governor of Alaska shortly after losing the election alongside McCain. She published a successful memoir, has worked for several national networks, and also had her own show on Alaskan television, which broke ratings records on its premiere. Ella but she remained active in politics, backing candidates who embraced the conservative ideology of the Tea Party. Of course, in 2016 she supported Trump in the Republican primaries that would eventually lead to the presidency.
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A risky bet
In 2008, with the election of Palin, McCain was trying to attract the disenchanted female vote with Hillary Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. Both women, however, were at the ideological antipodes. The election as the electoral partner of Alaskan politics was a risky bet. It was a new face, fresh, spontaneous, but also a risky bet. And it went wrong.
Lack of experience made her make mistakes. And she was ridiculed to the extreme, sometimes with some cruelty and injustice. In an interview she was unable to cite any newspaper she read and the McCain campaign team that prepared her for the debate with Joe Biden (a vice-presidential candidate with Obama) leaked to the press that in the previous sessions Palin did not know that the United States, Canada and Mexico were the Free Trade Agreement countries and they referred to Africa as a country and not a continent. She complained that those comments had been “taken out of context”.
But it was another phrase of his that has been parodied and repeated the most times, and it has permeated more in its deformed version than in the original. “I can see Russia from my house” were never the words spoken by Palin, but they were the ones that passed to posterity. In a television campaign interview with CBS, Palin said: “They are our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska” when asked specifically what provided that proximity. It is true that both from the highest peaks of Alaska and from the Diomede Islands (one Russian and one American), Russia can be seen from Alaska. What was ridiculous was that he tried to present that as a foreign policy experience credential.
But it was the hilarious parody of the TV show Saturday Night Life that put the finishing touches on the matter. It featured Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin with this dialogue:
—Palin: “Hillary and I don’t agree on everything…”
—Clinton: “Nothing. I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.”
—Palin: “And I can see Russia from my house.”
Palin tried to vindicate herself years later. Though he didn’t make headlines, on that campaign he also said, “After the Russian army invaded Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalency, the kind of response that would only serve Putin to invade Ukraine next.” And when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, he wrote on Facebook: “Yes, I could see it from Alaska. Normally, I’m not one to say ‘I told you so,’ but I did.”
During the White House campaign, Palin also had to deal with the pregnancy of her then-teenage daughter Bristol. He fell into the trap of a radio comedian posing as Nicolas Sarkozy, then president of France. She spread hoaxes about Obama that exposed her. She spent tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds on dresses and clothing for herself and her family. The campaign was so disastrous that she gave for a movie, Game Change, with Julianne Moore as the protagonist, in which she did not come out well. The vice presidents do not decide the elections in the United States, but Sarah Palin was pointed out by the McCain team as guilty of her defeat. The senator himself, on the other hand, praised her unreservedly.
Mother of five children and grandmother of eight grandchildren, Palin divorced in 2019. Her ex-husband alleged incompatibility of characters that made their coexistence as a couple impossible after 31 years of marriage and a courtship since high school. In this campaign, Republican politics has thrown itself into the arms of Trump to try to reach Congress. If he doesn’t make it in Tuesday’s election, he’ll still have another chance on November 8.
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