A new article in the New York Times outlines the path that Sarah Palin has taken from the 2008 election to her recent resignation. It is clear from their reporting that Palin lost interest in being governor after the 2008 election. Her family drama, the state’s economy and ethical accusations all hastened her decision to bail out of an increasingly unsatisfying job.  She waved off what appears to have been good advice about how to survive the situation and kept edging toward the door.  Having tasted celebrity and tiring of notoriety, she now seeks fame, fortune and respectability. As unimpressed as I am with Sarah Palin’s judgment and intellect, two areas in which she is seriously underpowered, she may be lurching uncontrollably into her best option.

Palin’s resignation is likely to result in a can’t-lose situation for her. First, of course, she’ll have to get past the bad taste that her gubernatorial performance and  resignation have left in many people’s mouth, not to mention the political and economic fallout she’s leaving behind. My prediction is that Alaska, being mostly out of the public eye except when Palin is in it, will be left to its own devices after she leaves office and its economic predicament will gradually fade from view, unless a smoking gun is found. Sarah has left the building.

Palin has made another career change and is now reinventing herself from politician to standard-bearer.   As she builds her constituency and fills her pockets she can become an influential power broker or even a candidate, although if she’s elected she would have to serve and display the kind of perseverance for which she’s not known. Soon it will be lucrative speeches and the release of her book, both of which will keep her firmly in the spotlight.  She will build her image as the maverick outsider who takes on Washington, Big Government, the Mainstream Media, and “politics as usual” without having to worry about her job performance or pointed questions at news conferences.  She will be the spokeperson for “traditional family values,” chatting up her fans on the right, thrilling them with her personal story.  The sound of cash will drown out those back home who are cleaning up her messes.

All of this creates a huge potential headache for the GOP. The moderates and pragmatists who want to build the party and regain its former influence will again find Palin a polarizing force who does little for the party as a whole. She will remain an easy target unless she uncharacteristically develops some intellectual curiousity and actually learns what others have tried to teach her.  She may have some influence on the mid-term elections, but I suspect that her star will begin to fade thereafter.

Those who see Palin as the future of the party seem blinded by her dazzling smile, unable to see her flaws, which in the context of politics outweigh her mostly superficial strengths.  She could be the Democrat’s new Best Friend Forever.