Alaska Governor Sarah Palin shocked the nation Friday when she announced, abruptly, that she would vacate the Governor’s Mansion on July 26. The suddenness of her announcement led to wild speculation over holiday barbecues for a simple reason: Palin’s decision to leave office 18 months into her first term does not fit within the logic of conventional wisdom.
It would not have been a surprise to many if Governor Palin decided against seeking a second term. Her star on the national political stage had the potential to shine much brighter than the Big Dipper that graces Alaska’s state flag. But few expected her exit her current job so soon and so abruptly.
Her quick departure caused many to speculate that something else was going on in Palin’s life. Was there an FBI investigation? Did she or husband Todd have an undisclosed health crisis? Was eldest son Track being discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for taping an amateur porn video? Crazier things have been said about the family Palin, so it wouldn’t have been too surprising if any of these were, in fact, true.
In many ways, Sarah Palin seems like a contradiction to the common political observer. She supports the Religious Right, but, according to sources in her hometown of Wasilla, she only went to church on Christmas and Easter – until she sought higher elected office. She wants to legislate family values, but seems unable to instill them on her own children.
While to many, that would seem hypocritical, to Palin, it is simply being a “maverick.” And understanding Sarah Palin allows us to take her words at face value. Taking Governor Palin’s words at face value – something most Americans are loathe to do with politicians – her decision to leave office was “Wasillogical”. That is to say, it might make sense to people from Wasilla, Alaska, but not to the rest of us.
In Palin’s words, “And so as I thought about this announcement that I wouldn’t run for re-election and what it means for Alaska, I thought about how much fun some governors have as lame ducks… travel around the state, to the Lower 48 (maybe), overseas on international trade – as so many politicians do. And then I thought – that’s what’s wrong – many just accept that lame duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck, and “milk it”. I’m not putting Alaska through that – I promised efficiencies and effectiveness! That’s not how I am wired. I am not wired to operate under the same old “politics as usual.” I promised that four years ago – and I meant it.”
Or to translate, Palin made the decision that she was no longer going to be Governor. Once that decision was made, what was the point of remaining Governor? So she decided to resign.
Logical would be a little bit like a married couple deciding to divorce. Few couples would decide after two years of marriage that they should get a divorce a year after making their decision. If they’re going divorce, they want to do so immediately. That is logical to most American
However, Palin’s decision feels a little different. “Wasillogical” would be more like that of the couple who, after they decide not to rush into marriage, one party abruptly declares that they can no longer be friends because he does’t just want a romantic relationship. On the surface, it sounds illogical. Yet in some ways it kind of makes sense not to continue walking down a dead-end road…and that’s Wasillogical.
The problem with being Wasillogical, however is that it is very difficult to parse out Palin’s thought process and understand her motives and considerations. We ascribe our own explanations to the situation (which fit our standard, lower-48 experiences) and talk about “another shoe to drop,” call her a “quitter” or worse.
So, if Palin hopes to re-enter the national political spotlight, she needs to remain in it following her departure from office. She needs to continue her conversation with the American people and give us something to think about other than her bizarre exit from Alaska’s political stage.