"I would go back and forth about whether now is the time, and if I say no to the opportunity that's in front of me via running for office now will, politically speaking, will I die? Will I be ineffective? But, no, after making the decision today and making the announcement I know beyond a shadow of a doubt after great confirmation today too, Greta, personally speaking, I know that it's the right decision. And I know that I can join others in being effective in helping change what's going on in our country and helping wake up Americans to what is going on in our country." [starts about the 3:00 point]
Governor Palin dealt with the central issue: effectiveness. She did the same when resigning as governor. She said about that decision, "Politically speaking, if I die, I die."
Well, resigning as governor didn't turn out to be the fatal move every major political commentator said it would be. And Palin became more relevant to the 2010 electoral change in American politics after resigning than she was before.
Will she remain a potent political figure? If she continues saying what is needed, yes. Her criticisms of death panels, quantitative easing and crony capitalism were not powerful because she was a possible presidential candidate. They were powerful because she was right. (see New York Times commentator Anand Giridharadas and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend)
Reagan wasn't a "has been" after losing his presidential bid in 1976.* He ran against the Republican establishment and a sitting Republican president who did not have the message the nation needed. Reagan didn't "die" in 1976 because what he was saying was needed in 1980, 1984 and beyond despite his loss in 1976 and his advanced age.
In the end, Palin said she asked for God's guidance and felt confirmed in her decision not to run. Those who have made a similar type of decision in their own lives know what that feels like. Something looks like the right thing to do, but day by day the positive interior feeling goes south rather than settling in and becoming a firm conviction.
I don't know what Sarah Palin's future holds, but I don't expect that the content of what she says will become any less relevant tomorrow than it was the day before yesterday. It's the rightness of what is said rather than if it is said by someone actively running for office.
Leadership is about giving needed direction. Unfortunately most campaigners don't lead when it requires setting a hard course for the nation. Mostly the importance of what they say for the voter is in figuring out what the candidate believes and how the candidate will act in office rather than illuminating the trail the nation needs to follow.
For me, there is no political figure on the national scene who gives better direction than Sarah Palin. Actually, she even makes it into the handful of pundits who are worth reading because they understand basic principles rather than flipping from one position to another because of shifts in the daily news.
Only when Sarah Palin stops giving needed analysis and direction will she stop being important and politically powerful.
*I should make clear that I expect Governor Palin's political influence to go down just as Ronald Reagan's badly slumped after his 1976 defeat. He had no real impact on the 1976 or 1978 elections. However, despite having to fight the issue of his age, his perceived "dangerously conservative" stance and having alienated the Republican establishment by running against Ford in the primary and weakening Ford's chances at re-election, Reagan had the answers the nation needed, and his substantive impact became clear in 1980.
I appreciate the commentary of Professor William Jacobson on Palin's decision, corruption in the media and establishment Republicans, and the dangers the political class present for the nation.
"[Palin's not running is p]robably for the better in the drive to unseat Obama, but only because of the political corruption of the media and establishment Republicans, who have been relentless in their attacks on her. It disgusts me that a candidate of such quality cannot run as a practical matter, and that we are left with second and third choices. But reality is reality, and it would have been a tough road to overcome the past three years.
"Palin had the opportunity to be a game-changer in the direction of this country; someone who really understood at a gut level how far down the road we are on the path to a country we will not recognize; someone who understands that the political class holds the country by the throat, and that removing the grip is necessary not just changing who holds the grip.
"I do not begrudge her the time she took at all. I respect that she took the time, and in the end made a sound decision, even if it is a decision which leaves me profoundly disappointed in the coming year."