Haha, no, I don’t mean to impute to the half-term-governor any of the strategic genius of the deified Julius, or the brutal competence of his adoptive son. But America’s sweetheart is quickly developing another trait that defined the first Caesar: a cavernous gap between the types of fervent emotion she inspires, correlated loosely with class. Specifically, the devotion she inspires among her “real American” followers is almost Caesarian in its fanatacism, but blissfully limited; and the burning distrust, bordering on hatred, of the elites, nearly Catonian.
Of course, Palin’s problem, and the one that will prevent her from acquiring any of the power (whether auctoritas or potestas) of the Roman, is that her mob is relatively small, meaning the Shakespearean tragedy this conflict sets up will be played out in the Republican Party, rather than in the country at large. Thank God. Still, with the midterms behind us, the pace of Republican desertions has picked up, and will only increase as primary season draws near. The Caesarian effect therefore enters in the form of this question: at what point can the elites no longer desert her, for fear of losing the people? And can she, for the good of the Republican Party and the country, be rendered harmless in the 2012 primaries, without her opponents reaping a “populist” whirlwind?
If that goal is to be accomplished, Palin must enter the primary season thoroughly discredited, and not by any one hand, in such a way as to not appeal to her persecution complex (gleefully channeled by her followers), and to free her followers to both contemplate and actually support an electable alternative. What might that look like? It won’t be an aggressive denunciation from presidential hopefuls. It’ll start with an escalating background noise of disapproval, and subtle demurrers from the frontrunners. We might already be there.