The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures

Sarah Palin, Inc.

The biggest brand name in conservative politics is about to enter the burgeoning right-wing marketplace — and she's perfect for it. Ka-ching!
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  July 17, 2009


From Jester to Esther: Sarah Palin sees self as a religious legend, not a political football. By David S. Bernstein.
When earlier this month Sarah Palin abruptly announced her intention to resign as governor of Alaska — barely midway through her four-year term — the political punditry was left puzzling over what she could possibly do next. If Palin was not in office, nor actively campaigning for election, how could she remain relevant, influential, and, of course, paid?

Those confused commenters have no clue as to the opportunities that await Palin — because few understand the extraordinary, multi-billion-dollar marketplace that has developed for movement conservatives.

The Phoenix reviewed the most recently available financial reports of some 250 conservative-advocacy groups and political-action committees; their combined gross revenues totaled more than $2 billion. And that's only the major players, in just the nonprofit portion of the industry.

No wonder the father of Palin's grandchild, Levi Johnston, told reporters that the governor is quitting "to take some of this money people had been offering."

Palin is poised to be the hottest brand to ever hit that market. And her entry is beautifully timed.

Thanks to the election of Barack Obama and a heavily Democratic Congress, the conservative industry is, despite the recession, experiencing boom times. Books declaring that Democrats are unleashing "statism" and "socialism" — by Mark R. Levin and Dick Morris, respectively — have dominated the bestseller lists. Rush Limbaugh is enjoying record listenership. Over the past three months, every one of the 10 most-watched daily programs on cable news belonged to the right-wing Fox News Channel (FNC). Political interest usually peaks during a presidential campaign year, but FNC has actually improved its ratings this year — in part by playing more directly to the right wing, by ditching Sean Hannity's liberal co-anchor, and by adding froth-mouthed Glenn Beck to its daily line-up.

"The idea that politics or the presidency is [Palin's] only aim is wrong," says Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University who studies the conservative movement. "Rush Limbaugh doesn't run for office."

There are at least 10 million people who could be called true "movement conservatives" in America today — perhaps twice that number, including conservative and libertarian independents, along with "base" Republicans. They are not only reading and tuning in — they are contributing to conservative nonprofit organizations and political-action committees; they are attending conferences; they are buying paraphernalia; and they are signing up for e-mail newsletters and online publications.

But the analysts, thinking only of Palin's presidential prospects, are missing all of this. They are accustomed to paying attention to how people vote, not how they spend.

"We tend to think of the Republican conservative electorate," says Zelizer. "There's also this vibrant marketplace that's been built up over the past 30 years, and it can be quite lucrative."

Put another way, "There are people on the right who have learned how to milk the right wing for all it's worth," says Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at the liberal People for the American Way. "They have yet to find the bottom of this well of right-wing money that drives the creation of all these right-wing organizations."

And unlike earlier times, most of these organizations are no longer reliant on (or controlled by) large conservative foundations. A review of the biggest conservative foundations' grant-making reports found that they were responsible for about only $50 million of the $2 billion pulled in by the groups reviewed by the Phoenix.

Not incidentally, all of this is helping push the conservative base further to the fringe of American politics, and almost certainly damaging the Republican Party. But if you think that bothers the right-wing merchants, you've got it backward. If anything, they are incentivized to help the GOP lose: Democrats in power give them a foe to rally the ideologues against (and a growing pool of disaffected Americans if the economy, or anything else, goes badly). The ascension of Obama and the Democrats was a financial godsend that repowered the gravy train — it was the best thing to happen to them since the Clinton era, when conservative talk-radio listenership tripled, and much of this industry was born.

So are these organizations run by true believers, or cynical parasites? That's ultimately a moot point. It's like asking whether fast-food CEOs eat their companies' food, or if tobacco executives smoke. In a consumer market, the consumer will get what they want from someone, whether it's chicken nuggets, Marlboros, or the most reactionary, extremist fear-mongering.

"If you want to do well in that marketplace, they expect red meat," says Zelizer, speaking of the conservative customer base. "They don't want moderates — that's not what sells."

Palin is red meat, atop red Naughty Monkey heels. She will sell.

Building an empire
Plus, she has an army waiting to follow her — even here in liberal Massachusetts.

"I believe that, whatever she chooses to do, she would be terrific at it," says Sandi Martinez of Chelmsford, a Republican activist and unsuccessful candidate for State Senate, who adds, "I see Sarah almost as a female Ronald Reagan."

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |   next >
Related: Rise of the political bogeyman, Night of the living dead, Two many Americas, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
Re: Sarah Palin, Inc.
Interesting article. There is however 1 thing missing: could it be possible that Palin is doing this out of belief, fight against corruption, conservatism and that this is her goal? Her belief that this is her calling, not the money (hmm, did she not also say something like that?) And now flip the coin to the other political spectrum. Is this not exactly what the elite-left is doing? Look at Al-Hypocrite Gore with his insane amount of money he is making out of the global-warming hoax. Or at Micheal Moore, jetting around as well and making gazillions. Or how did Obama get his money --from all those leftist suckers sending him money. It looks more like this article was written to describe the hypocrite left. With Ralph Nader as the only bright and honest exception  
By huntingmoose on 07/16/2009 at 3:57:19
Re: Sarah Palin, Inc.
 huntingmoose: B-I-N-G-O! This writer just did describe the hypocritical Left to an absolute Tee (except there is nothing attractive or sexy on that side).  It also shows the public two things they do have (among a thousand other negatives); projection and petty jealously...
By Fuzzlenutter on 07/16/2009 at 7:05:27
Re: Sarah Palin, Inc.
 The Dems won 53% with everything breaking their way.  With Sarah's help the Republicans will retake the Congress in 2010 and the WH in 2012. 
By JAY123 on 07/16/2009 at 8:01:00
Re: Sarah Palin, Inc.
 The Dems won 53% with everything breaking their way.  With Sarah's help the Republicans will retake the Congress in 2010 and the WH in 2012. 
By JAY123 on 07/16/2009 at 8:01:19
Re: Sarah Palin, Inc.
Good informative article.   I agree with most of what was written.  However, Sarah will offset the appearance of making millions, by going into large cities and with her religious background begin to connect with conservatives of African Americans and Latinos.  Many of their cutural issues are similar to hers and the Republican base is no where to be found on these issues and their communities.  Her life experience and her most cherished issues clearly cross boundries, it just cannot be seen right now with Obama having recently grabbed that vote.  This will change as Obama continues to reveal himself as a radical socialist.  They will be willing to give her a listen to. She will continue to draw ever larger more exciteable crowds in Urban settings. This is her path to the Presidency.  If she is seen skimming off votes from the recently voted Left, the Republican base will fall in line.  They want victory in November 2012.  Whoever will give them that they'll follow.  If anyone is looking for the key moment of whether Sarah Palin will have a successful run for the Repulican nomination, look for the large overnight Republican registrations just before the primaries.  There are many Conservatives out there not registered Republican.  If this happens within weeks of the primaries that is a sign they are all going to vote for Sarah Palin.  If they are not registered she can't win.
By DMac8889 on 07/25/2009 at 2:26:42
Re: Sarah Palin, Inc.
By DMac8889 on 07/25/2009 at 2:31:35

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   SARAH PALIN, INC.  |  July 17, 2009
    The biggest brand name in conservative politics is about to enter the burgeoning right-wing marketplace — and she's perfect for it. Ka-ching!
  •   FROM JESTER TO ESTHER  |  July 15, 2009
    Sarah Palin sees self as a religious legend, not a political football
  •   BOSTON'S $10 MILLION BOO-BOOS  |  July 07, 2009
    Righting a wrongful conviction
  •   MASS BETRAYAL  |  June 19, 2009
    How House progressives have let you down — and why they'll do it again
  •   MASSHOLES  |  June 17, 2009
    A timeline of modern-day state house corruption

 See all articles by: DAVID S. BERNSTEIN

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group