Sarah Palin didn’t put stupid into politics. Before Palin, there was W, the walking faux pas/war criminal. And before W there was Dan Quayle and his boyish good looks… and little else. There were many stupid politicians before Quayle, too. But what Palin did was different than the Stupid before her.
Palin was the first politician to commercialize her stupidity. She was the first to recognize that even people who wonder out loud, “What the fuck did she just say?” are still paying attention to her, so if she can capture their eyeballs, she can use her stupidity to capture their dollars.
And she didn’t just commercialize it; she capitalized on it. She embraced it. She made it her brand: “Yep, I’m dumb. I’m not as smart as some of those elites in Washington, but I’m smart enough to be your leader, and you should vote for me–and send me your money–to stick it to the elites.”
The first Reality TeeVee politician, Palin paved the way for the Proudly Stupid caucus of the GOP, a wing populated by the likes of Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor
Greene, people who leverage their stupidity to attract voters and donors: “Look at how those elites sneer at us just ’cause we don’t know things like how government works. You should vote for me–and send me your money–to stick it to the elites.”
Oh, there are many stupid politicians. People like Louie Gohmert and Virginia Foxx are objectively stupid, but they don’t advertise it the way Palin did or the way Taylor and Boebert do. Gohmert’s and Foxx’s stupidity were mainly limited to committee hearings and an occasional floor speech. But Taylor and Boebert have weaponized their stupidity because they believe staying stupid is why they’re making so much money from donors. Oh, yeah, and why they got elected, of course.
We have Sarah Palin to thank for that. Unapologetically stupid, Palin leveraged that stupidity into a career in reality television after her time as a TeeVee pundit mercifully ended. Fox decided it wasn’t sane to pay her seven figures to repeatedly claim that she’s just a soccer mom from Alaska who doesn’t know how the smart people would handle it, but being an Alaskan soccer mom, she would just cut through all the bull and get to a solution. Nevermind that she never actually offered a solution. Like many of the Stupid, she thinks just sayin’ she has a solution is solution enough… because stupid.
There’s a straight line between Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. The autocratic tendencies. The corruption. The cults of personality. Palin may have commercialized her stupidity, but Trump weaponized it. He made being stupid something to defend to the death. Literally. If you were stupid enough to defend Donald Trump’s medical advice during the pandemic, you’re more likely to be dead. Just ask Herman Cain.
With her latest attempt at a political comeback cast off to the scrap heap of history, Sarah Palin doesn’t have the entertainment capital to merit a new reality show. Her schtick is now worse than stupid; it’s just downright pathetic, with her family life in shambles and no marketable talent except perhaps to, I don’t know, sell pillows maybe. But she’ll end up with a show on RSBN. Or a reality show with her abstinence-preaching daughter on One National Outdoors Patriotic News Outlet. Because her brand of stupid pays.
The stupid will never go away, though. Where once the Stupid would fade back into the shrubbery like a Homer Simpson gif, or Sean Spicer, they now have the means of making a living being stupid. So Palin’s spiritual offspring will continue, just as the recently widely rejected Trumpism will carry on, ’cause it’s just stupid.