Sarah Palin was launched into the spotlight in 2008 when she was announced as the running mate of presidential candidate John McCain. But Sarah Palin’s political career began long before that in 1992 in Wasilla, Alaska. Holding the records for the first female and youngest governor Alaska has ever had, Palin has been a Tea party favorite with her conservative values and ‘just like you’ personality, though those qualities also make her a target for the left.
This sample political essay explores Palin’s early start in politics, her current role, and future ambitions.
Sarah Palin: Early life
Born in 1964 in Sandpoint, Idaho, Sarah moved with her family to Alaska when she was three months old. Growing up in Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah played on her town’s state champion basketball team before being crowned Miss Wasilla in 1984. She graduated from the University of Idaho in 1987 with a degree in journalism and became a television sports anchor, one of the most popular media positions in the sports industry (“Sarah Palin Biography”). After eloping with Todd Palin, her high school sweetheart, Sarah helped his family with their commercial fishing business. The couple has five children together: Bristol, Willow, Piper, Track, and Trig.
Entry into politics
In 1992, Sarah decided to run for a seat on the Wasilla city council and won. After serving two terms, she decided to run for mayor. Her platform targeted her opposition; a three-year incumbent who Sarah believed was out of touch with the needs and concerns of the people of Wasilla. During her tenure as mayor, Sarah raised the sales tax in the city by half to build a sports complex and put more money into public safety (“Sarah Palin Biography”). In addition, she cut property taxes and reduced government spending, making Wasilla the fastest growing city in Alaska at the time (“Sarah’s Story”).
There was, however, some dissatisfaction with the mayoral decisions that Sarah made during the early days of her tenure. According to documents from a wrongful-termination lawsuit, Sarah tried to pack the city council only with those who agreed with her policies. When she was elected, she sent letters to all six of the city’s department heads, asking for letters of resignation so she could make decisions about who to keep. Reportedly, Palin told the chief of police that if he showed her loyalty, his job would be safe. However, he soon received a letter from her office, stating that he had not been as supportive as she would have liked.
Failures as a local politician
As a result, he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Palin (Armstrong 2008). After the police chief and another department head were fired, two more quit with one stating that Sarah undermined him by secretly meeting with his employees and clients behind his back. She then tried to fill the vacant positions with people of her choosing, which was met with the city attorney’s reminder that that was not her prerogative. A local newspaper stated:
“Palin promised to change the status quo, but at every turn we find hints of cronyism and political maneuvering. We see a woman who has long since surrendered her ideals to a political machine.” (Armstrong 2008).
Sarah made other decisions that raised eyebrows around Wasilla, too. In a standoff with the local newspapers, she issued what the press refers to as a ‘gag order’, which requires all employees of the city to get approval for any interview before speaking to the press (Clark 2008). Her actions within the first few months in her position inspired her critics to cry out for a recall. Sarah acknowledges her early political struggles and has said:
“I grew tremendously in my early months as mayor.” (Armstrong 2008).
Citizens of Wasilla obviously agreed, because Sarah was able to turn those first horrible months around and at the end of her term, was re-elected.
Higher Ambitions: Palin sought higher positions
After her second term as mayor, Palin ran for lieutenant governor and lost. However, four years later, in 2006, she won the race for governor, making her Alaska’s youngest and first female governor (Armstrong 2008). During her race, she was a big supporter of a four hundred million dollar plan to build a bridge in a remote Alaskan community, stating that it was absolutely essential for local prosperity. Once she was elected, though, she dropped the plan, citing lack of importance and necessity (“Sarah Palin Biography”). She turned her focus to education reform, public safety, and transportation, heavily emphasizing ethics and transparency in government.
Governor of Alaska
As governor, Sarah Palin established herself as a fiscal conservative and an advocate for natural energy. She got rid of the position of a personal chef from the governor’s mansion in addition to selling the governor’s private jet, only flying coach on all flights, and driving herself to work each day. She also focused much of her attention on energy. As the chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, she helped to pass legislation that allowed the building of a natural gas pipeline that cost forty billion dollars, in addition to giving an extra twelve hundred dollars to each Alaskan resident from the windfall from Alaska’s oil revenues (Clark 2008).
In August of 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced that he had selected Governor Palin for this running mate. This made Sarah the second woman to ever run for Vice President with a major political party and the first woman to run on the Republican ticket. This announcement was met with mixed reviews, as many wondered if she was capable of running the country should anything happen to the president. The Washington Post stated that her speeches and comments were:
“strikingly devoid of the diplomatic language generally used by U.S. officials.” (“Sarah Palin Biography”).
Losing the White House
After the loss of the presidential race, Palin went home to Alaska and resumed her governor position and duties. Despite this, In July of 2009, Sarah announced that she would resign as governor of Alaska. When pressed for a reason why, she cited several things, including financially stressful lawsuits and ethical concerns (“Sarah Palin Biography”). This caused speculation that Palin intended to run for president in 2012. In 2010, Sarah published her autobiography, titled Going Rogue: An American Life. Selling more than two million copies, it hurled Sarah into the spotlight where she was met with offers to be a political commentator for Fox News and for her own TV show on TLC called Sarah Palin’s Alaska. The show followed the Palin family through their adventures in the Alaskan wilderness and pulled a network record of five million viewers. Notwithstanding, the network chose not to renew her contract for a second season, adding fuel to the idea that perhaps she would run for president.
Sarah has since become associated with the Tea Party Movement, which is a notoriously conservative group endorsing the reduction of government spending (note: Palin, Tea Party leaders, and rank-and-file Republicans fought against government spending under the Obama administration), large drops in taxes, and the laws that more closely coincide with the original constitution. After endorsing several successful Tea Party candidates during the mid-term elections in 2010, Sarah helped to launch the Pink Elephant Movement, an organization whose main goal is to endorse female Republican candidates (“Sarah Palin Biography”). Since then, she has released two more books; American by Heart in 2010 and Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas in 2013. In July of 2014, she launched her own media enterprise called The Sarah Palin Channel, which allows users to view videos and read articles from Sarah.
Love Her or Hate Her: The public unsure about Palin as a leader
Sarah’s public image has always been split. It can be very difficult to maintain a positive image while under public scrutiny, especially when running a media heavy presidential campaign. While there were many who supported her run for vice president, others were deeply concerned about her abilities to help run the country and questioned her intelligence. During the presidential campaign, Sarah made many statements that worried Democratic and Republican voters alike, so much so that John McCain’s campaign manager often tried to keep Sarah out of the spotlight (Clark 2008). Still, years after her run for vice president, Sarah’s public image is not very positive.
According to a new poll on from the Huffington Post, Sarah’s general public image is a negative one. However, she is much more popular among regular viewers of Fox News.
- Fifty-two percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Sarah Palin
- Thirty-seven percent have a favorable opinion (Swanson 2013).
- Seventy-three percent of Republicans in the poll expressed favorable opinions of Sarah
- Seventy-three percent of Democrats and fifty-one percent of independents expressed unfavorable opinion
When the participants were asked about her return to Fox News as a political commentator, the votes were split:
- Thirty-four percent believed her return was a positive thing
- Thirty-four percent believed it was a negative thing
- Thirty-two percent were not sure
Again, though, her popularity among frequent Fox News watchers is higher, with seventy percent stating it was a good move on the part of Fox News to rehire her. Despite areas of support, another poll done by CBS News finds that seventy-one percent of Americans do not want Sarah Palin to run for president while twenty-one percent are in favor of the idea and eight percent are unsure (Hecktkopf 2010). Sarah can never quite win over the majority of Americans, even the ones that belong to her own political party.
A recent event that certainly did not do anything positive for Sarah’s public image was her speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Apparently, Palin’s teleprompter malfunctioned and Sarah attempted to make do without it. The result was choppy, incoherent, and confusing. For example, despite the film American Sniper breaking records in the box office and being nominated for six Oscars, Sarah implied that Hollywood was not in support of veteran Chris Kyle, the man the film is about, stating:
“Screw the left in Holywood who can’t understand what it is we see in someone like Chris Kyle and all of our vets,” as though the film was met with disdain rather than honor.
These statements were made even more ironic when Sarah continuously referred to Kyle’s wife Taya, whom she claims to be close with, as ‘Tara’ (Cesca 2015). During her speech, Sarah talked about meeting a veteran in Las Vegas with a sign displaying inappropriate language and the “O’s” in Michael Moore’s name replaced with sniper scopes. Sarah recalled the event awkwardly, saying:
“And I’m like oh man look, me I call him up front, you know…That poster, though, you’ve heard the term ‘swear like a sailor’, even though I think this guy was a soldier, and, you know, same thing, well.” (Cesca 2015).
Her speech continued with more sloppy statements like, “Congressman Steve King, my goodness, Steve very strong. He goin’ rogue…” and “We don’t dit on our thumbs this time when one of our own is being crucified and falsely accused of whatever the hip accusation of the day happens to be, right? Racism. Sexism. Whatever.” (Cesca 2015).
The speech did nothing positive for her public image and, in fact, created more confusion than support.
Reflecting on Sarah Palin’s political career and impact
Sarah Palin has been in the political spotlight for decades and continues to make her mark on American politics. Though Sarah does not always have the total support of her fellow Americans, she manages to remain pertinent and prevalent in the political world, whether it is with her commentary for Fox News or her statements in support of GOP candidates. With all her current projects and ambitions, it seems as though Sarah’s involvement in the world of politics is far from over.
“Sarah Palin” Bio. AE Television Networks, 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
“Sarah’s Story”. SarahPAC. www.SarahPAC.com, 2014. Web. 5 Feb 2015.
Armstrong, Ken. “Sarah Palin had turbulent first year as mayor of Alaska town”. The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company, 7 Sept. 2008. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Cesca, Bob. “Your Handy Guide to the Most Epic Sarah Palin Speech Ever.” The Daily Banter. The Daily Banter, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Clark, Josh. “How Sarah Palin Works”. How Stuff Works. HowStuffWorks.com, 15 Sept. 2008. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Hechtkopf, Kevin. “Poll: Most Don’t Want Sarah Palin to Run for President”. CBS News. CBSNews.com, 18 Jan. 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Swanson, Emily. “Unfavorable Opinion of Sarah Palin in Poll. But Fox Viewers Happy With Her Return.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 19 June 2013. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.