11/20/09 — Learning from Palin: Her popularity endures because Americans know she's real

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Learning from Palin: Her popularity endures because Americans know she's real

Sarah Palin is back in the news -- and back in the sights of her critics.

She is a lightning rod this time because of the incredible popularity of her new book, "Going Rogue," and because her recent interview with Oprah Winfrey was the talk show host's highest-rated episode, ever, even beating out her show with Barack Obama.

So that kind of success would suggest that those who keep an eye on everything political would be very interested in why Palin has managed to continue to garner interest in so many places from so many people.

And there has been some analysis of why she is keeping the public's interest -- as well as continued discussion about whether she will run for president in 2012 and if she is suited for the job.

There are many questions still to be asked about Palin -- and she still has more to prove if she wants to be a serious candidate for national office in the future. Those who want to see more from her with regard to understanding of international and national policy are right to demand more substance to go along with the down home appeal that makes her so much more interesting than many of the other politicians who have been in the national spotlight.

But what is most interesting about Palin -- and why so many people are so nonplused about her popularity -- is that her appeal says something about what Americans are looking for in a political candidate.

They like Sarah Palin because she is not slick.

They like her because she has a complicated backstory and has problems that real Americans can identify with.

They like that she says what she thinks -- and that her response is not sanitized for votes.

They like that she is real and not some consultant's vision of what a candidate should be.

And they hate that she is being attacked by an elite that is completely out of touch with the heart of this country -- where there are millions of voters who care about the futures of their families and their nation.

And therein lies a lesson for those who would be politicians in the future.

Americans can sniff out a fake, and hype is not enough, not really, to sustain a candidate anymore.

Voters are worried that their leaders in Washington don't get them, don't understand their issues, don't care about what they really want for their country.

And as they become more disconnected, they are eager for someone who might just be willing to listen.

Perhaps Palin will not be a presidential candidate in 2012 -- and perhaps she should not be.

But there is no denying that she has changed the face of politics.

And those who will seek office in the future should pay attention to the lessons she is teaching.

Published in Editorials on November 20, 2009 10:58 AM