After a bout of initial confusion, at least some Palinistas have come around to the view that the Alaska governor’s resignation is actually a canny maverick move after all—or at any rate, have gotten in enough time practicing in front of the mirror that they’re able to say so straightfaced. But I find I can’t help imagining what the reaction would have been a month ago, from the very same people, if some wag had suggested that it would be in the best interests of both Alaska and Palin’s own political prospects to step down—and indeed, to cite as the public reason for her resignation the burden of fending off frivolous ethics complaints brought by political enemies.
At best, it would have been seen as a bad joke—a satirical “helpful suggestion” that could only have been offered by someone plainly hostile to Palin. We’d be assured, of course, that Sarah Barracuda would never dream of folding under pressure like that. Just think of the message it would send—capitulating to a pressure campaign by a bunch of lefty bloggers? Neville Chamberlain would have been invoked.
This is obviously a bit speculative, but there have, in fact, been some folks suggesting that Palin ought to resign over the past few months. All, as far as I can tell, were on the left. I don’t recall seeing any Republicans saying: “You know, maybe that would be best.”
More generally, given the transparently partisan way professional ideologues tend to respond to political events, I wish someone would start some sort of Hypotheticals Registry for pundits. You’d describe, in abstract terms, a potential political controversy or scandal—a program of warrantless wiretaps, an Argentine mistress, an abrupt resignation amid a flurry of ethics charges—and then get the talking head brigade to register in advance how outrageous the behavior in question is. Not that most of them aren’t clever enough to find grounds for distinguishing the actual fact pattern from the hypothetical they responded to when it becomes necessary to do an about-face, but it might at least be more entertaining to watch them squirm a bit.
Addendum: Something felt nigglingly familiar about that last paragraph—I realize it’s because it’s fairly similar to author David Brin’s call for a “predicitions registry.” What Brin wants is to hold pundits accountable for their claims about what is or isn’t likely to happen, which may also be a good idea, but it seems to me that a lot of punditry is normative rather than predictive. The point of the Hypotheticals Registry is not so much to see if the bobbleheads make the right calls about what will happen, but whether they can accurately forecast their own reactions to political developments from behind a partisan veil of ignorance.