How the mighty have fallen. Sarah Palin, that inscrutable media grifter from the tundra has just lost her gig with Fox News. She will no doubt soon find herself in that place so dreaded by celebrities and fame mongers: the "where are they now?" file.
The simple explanation for Fox's parting of ways with Palin would be that she passed her expiration date in a political scene where trends and personalities come and go with the seasons. That might be true, but I see a deeper game at play. This is actually part of a larger change in strategy on the part of the establishment of the Republican party, for whom Fox News acts as a mouthpiece, agitator, and propaganda arm.
If you remember, back in 2009, the Republicans reacted to president Obama's election and relative popularity with a campaign of massive obstruction, resistance, and paranoia. They filibustered at truly unprecedented levels, they began making idle and constant comparisons between the president's policies and Nazism, and they unleashed the dogs of political war in the form of the Tea Party church and king mob. Fox News threw down the gauntlet by giving a big platform to Glenn Beck, a paranoid ranter with the affect of a cult leader who soon found many ready acolytes. For the first time in decades, the Republican party establishment let their Bircher id run riot with apocalyptic fury. The gambit worked in turning out the votes and shifting momentum back in 2010.
The raison d'etre of the party was apparent all along, and even stated publicly by the likes of Mitch McConnell: to make Barack Obama a one term president. After failing miserably in this quest, despite favorable economic conditions for an opposition challenge, it seems the party of no is having to re-strategize. They have decided to put off the debt ceiling battle, they have relented on Sandy funding, and they are making some baby steps towards moderate compromise.
This is where Palin comes in. She is the avatar of the "turn out the base" strategy, and pretty well pioneered it in the 2008 election, when she "went rogue" and shot her mouth off about "real Americans" and took the low road in her attacks on Obama. She quickly gained a following in the conservative ranks, who had found a representative for their resentments against Barack Obama, as well as a symbol of all they claimed to stand for. The enthusiastic response she received from the party faithful on the campaign trail made the party big-wigs realize the potential of "take my country back" populism, and certainly helped pave the way for the party's co-option of Beck and the Tea Party.
The last election seems to have shown the limitations of that strategy. Nowadays the party pushes forward the likes of Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Much of this is to bolster facetious notions that the GOP is "young" and "diverse," but the new faces of the party are also more the old-school economic conservatives rather than the nationalistic rabble-rousers railing on behalf of "real America." Republicans seem to think they can expand their appeal beyond older white people by dampening down the herrenvolk nationalism and playing up the Reaganite contempt for the downtrodden. That, at the root, is why Sarah Palin is looking for a new gig.