Is You-Know-Who Really Gone?

I noted in passing the other day the news that Fox News and Sarah Palin had failed to reach agreement on an extension of the contract that apparently paid her $15.85 per word for 189 Fox appearances between 2010 and 2012.

Now Paul Waldman gives us the word that Fox dropped the former Alaska governor, and in his opinion, she’s through as a major political figure:

Her umbilical cord to influence—the connection between the studio Fox built in her house and the network’s headquarters in New York—has been severed, her contract not renewed. Some of Palin’s allies anonymously informed reporters that the decision was hers and not the network’s, but I don’t believe that for a second. Roger Ailes is not a sentimental man, and when necessary he won’t hesitate to cut loose an asset whose usefulness is exhausted. And if you’ve ever seen her talking to Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, you know that she was actually terrible at TV commentary. Neither articulate nor insightful, she stumbled her way through a hundred appearances as a “Fox News Contributor,” offering viewers nothing more than her presence, as if that were enough. In the end, it wasn’t.

Palin’s not conceding she’s going anywhere, but Paul is right: once Palin’s alleged persecution by the godless liberals and the MSM and the RINOs during the 2008 campaign began to fade from memory, and then the Tea Party Movement created a bunch of talking heads with views similar to hers but with a better handle on grammar and syntax, she became a lot less indispensable. Even her bizarre interpretation of the 2012 election results (the conservative base wasn’t sufficiently mobilized, she says), which Waldman mocks, isn’t really all that distinctive; a major segment of the GOP is looking for ways to dismiss 2012 (and 2008, for that matter) as mere speed bumps in the party’s breakneck race to the Right.

I am somewhat concerned, though, that if Palin refuses to go quietly into Danquayleland, she might do something especially irresponsible to regain attention now that the Fox gig is over. I’m not sure she can ever top the “death panels” Facebook post; that kind of perfectly timed and supremely outrageous Big Lie doesn’t come along often. But that gets back to the big question about Palin: Is she just a nobody who stumbled into the national spotlight by accident for a time? Or does she have some sort of unique connection with grassroots conservative activists that is constantly and perpetually fed by every bit of criticism she so effortlessly generates?

I’ve always figured the latter was the case (which is why I dubbed her St. Joan of the Tundra back in the day, a term Waldman uses by way of farewell), but it’s true she got more competition these days. If she doesn’t want to become the answer to a trivia question, she’d better raise her crazy game.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.