In San Francisco, I haven’t seen too many bumper stickers saying “Palin for Prez in 2012,” but if you’re looking for a gauge of America’s current political temperature, look no farther than liberal San Francisco, where Sarah Palin – yes, that Sarah Palin – has a widespread fan base. In the city that begat the Summer of Love and jump-started the counter-culture movement, the conservative ex-governor of Alaska has become a much-admired figure – among both women and men.
Let me name some names. Nancy Workman. Steve Rodriguez. Shevon O’Rourke Dieterich. Mark Silverman. Roy Azem. Maureen Ennor. All of them are connected to San Francisco, and all of them admire Palin in a public way. How public? Workman, Rodriguez, Dieterich, Silverman, Azem, and Ennor spotlight their support for Palin on Facebook, which is the place to go these days and advertise your allegiances.
Rodriguez told me that Palin “is a leader who could bring this country true change,” adding that, “Sarah Palin is a perfect example of a strong-minded and strong-willed woman who can be an extremely positive role model for women who don’t have to abandon their values in order to achieve a high professional status. She is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs.”
Rodriguez supports the Republican Party, but he and other San Francisco fans of Palin are no fringe group. Rodriguez enjoys the Sopranos, listens to Marvin Gaye, and is a fan of a tattoo site that shows off celebrities (Rihanna, Eminem, et al.) and their fashionable markings. Silverman, a producer for a San Francisco radio station, is into stand-up and improv comedy. Workman, who works for a consulting firm, admires the heroic airline pilot Sulley Sullenberger and comic Dennis Miller. Azem watches South Park, and listens to Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and Michael Jackson. Ennor also likes Michael Jackson – along with Johnny Depp and Johnny Cash. Dieterich is a Facebook fan of a company that makes gourmet alcohol.
In the last week, there’s been lots of handwringing about the Democrats’ loss of Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich weighed in, writing that Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts is “a dire omen for the White House” – that President Obama has shown too little backbone in taking on the U.S. banking system and pushing through healthcare reform, while jobs continue to evaporate. Into this void came Scott Brown, who credited his victory to Massachussets’ “independent majority,” then warned Obama and his fellow Democrats: “For them it is just the beginning of an election year filled with surprises. They will be challenged again and again across this country. When there’s trouble in Massachusetts, there’s trouble everywhere – and now they know it.”
Yes, they do. So does Palin, who hopes the Democrats’ troubles continue until 2012, when the Iowa caucus will be held. Political columnist Walter Shapiro has outlined a scenario where Palin could win the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination. For the legions of anti-Palinates out there, the idea of a Palin presidency is more than sickening. It’s absurd. But Palin – unlike Obama – has seen her poll numbers go up of late. I once called Palin “the Wicked Wink of the West,” but she could have the last laugh if former Democratic seats continue to go into the Republican column. Talking to Rodriguez online has given me a greater sense of Palin’s power to attract voters looking for a giant change of pace.