Since 2009 when Sarah Palin boycotted all, non conservative political media, her behavior has been picked up on by Republican Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul with the result being that voters are now expected to make a decision on these candidates without much information, which can only lead to disastrous consequences for our democracy.
After proving that she was not ready for primetime during the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin did what any paranoid egomaniac that is unable to see her own shortcomings or take responsibility for her own mistakes would do, she blamed the media. Remember that in her book, Going Rogue, Palin accused Couric of, “badgering” her and having a, “partisan agenda.” This is the genesis of Palin’s blame the media mindset. Other Republicans saw that Palin was rewarded for her blame the media self victimization shtick, by the right wing crowd, and it was no time until other gaffe machine candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle followed Palin’s lead in 2010.
An often overlooked element of Palin’s media boycott strategy is the effect that it has on the flow of information. Palin’s paranoia has resulted in her only appearing on friendly media outlets, or ones that pay her, like Fox News. David Weigel summed up how Palin controls the flow of information last year, “The problem is that Palin has put the political press in a submissive position, one in which the only information it prints about her comes from prepared statements or from Q&As with friendly interviewers. This isn’t something most politicians get away with, or would be allowed to get away with. But Palin has leveraged her celebrity — her ability to get ratings, the ardor of her fans and the bitterness of her critics — to win a truly unique relationship with the press. She is allowed to shape the public debate without actually engaging in it.”
This strategy is a problem for our democracy. When political candidates refuse to talk to the media, they are also refusing to talk to the people. There is a line between a campaign or a political leader’s desire to control the message, and the suppression of information. Republican candidates, like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, who refuse to talk to the media are hiding from voters. How can voters make an informed decision when candidates refuse to be questioned? The answer is that they can’t.
Candidates who don’t answer questions from the media, if elected will turn into officeholders who deem themselves above being held accountable by the media or their own constituents. Information is the lifeblood of democracy, and when candidates can pick and choose what questions they will answer it changes our democracy for the worse. Palin, Paul, and Angle all love to talk about freedom, but the ultimate hypocrisy is that they don’t believe that the press is free to ask them questions.
A true leader does not hide from unfriendly questions. President Obama has given interviews to Fox News, even though he knows going in that they are his harshest critic. If the President of the United States can do it, then why can’t Sarah Palin? Can you imagine the howls from the Right if Barack Obama only appeared on MSNBC? Why does Palin, along with Rand Paul and Sharron Angle get a free pass? Sarah Palin is undermining a fundamental lynchpin of our democracy, and what is most frightening is that most people and members of the media don’t notice or care.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association