Sarah Palin’s Resignation According to John White

by University of Michigan Press on July 23, 2009

John White, author of the forthcoming book: Barack Obama’s America, provides a series of views on American society.Sarah-palin-resignation

Sarah Palin’s resignation is the biggest political story of the summer.  But the speculation as to why the Alaska governor resigned her post, misses an important story.  When Republicans have been successful, they have put forward leaders whose personal story is emblematic of the times.  Richard Nixon and his throughly middle-class background is a case in point.

In 1952, Nixon noted that his wife, Pat, did not own a mink coat but had a good Republican cloth coat instead.  Ronald Reagan was another Republican leader whose personal story resonated with Americans.  He had divorced in 1948 and remarried in 1952 to his beloved Nancy.  The two children Ronald and Nancy Reagan had went through their own 1960s-era rebellions.  So when family troubles loomed and Reagan expressed a longing for the simpler time of the 1950s, those feelings struck a responsive chord.

Sarah Palin’s personal story echoes today’s times.  Her daughter Bristol’s pregnancy and subsequent refusal to marry her boyfriend is one that many Americans can identify with.  Likewise, Palin’s juggling of work and family life is also something many Americans can understand.  Now that Palin is leaving her post (and possibly leaving politics), the remaining Republican leaders lack a story that is a compelling one for our times.  Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, is the son of Indian immigrants and his success story propelled him to the forefront of 2012 Republican leaders until his response to Barack Obama’s congressional address in January proved to be a disaster.  Mitt Romney is a Mormon married to the same woman and has a personal success story.  Mike Huckabee is an evangelical and also has a successful marriage.  But neither story is compelling, nor is there something that captures this moment in politics.

Barack Obama’s personal story is akin to Richard Nixon’s and Ronald Reagan’s and captures the present moment.  At a time when whites are approaching minority status (it is estimated that whites will be a nationwide minority by 2042), interracial marriage (like the one entered into by Obama’s parents) is increasingly common, divorce and remarriage are also frequent (as happened to Obama’s mother), and grandparents often assume a major role in raising children, Americans can identify with one or more elements of the Obama story.  No wonder, then, that so many Americans like Obama personally.

Now if only Republicans could only find someone with a powerful story with which Americans can identify.

Learn more about Barack Obama’s America here.

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