Sarah Palin and the Appeal of Quitting

Sarah Palin’s makes perfect sense to me. Though I wouldn’t exactly be surprised if she turned blue, sprouted several additional arms, and decided to become America’s chief advocate of a forceful Hindutva politics, I tend to think she really wants to leave politics behind and perhaps became the evangelical Oprah. One wonders if she’d do well as a radio talk-show host, a difficult and demanding job but one that requires her ease and natural charm.

The Purdum piece suggests that she moved very quickly through the ranks, and that she has a highly aggressive style — hence the “Barracuda” nickname. Think about how totally knackered you’d be after a decade of climbing over the dead bodies of all those who dared stand in your way. Having seen her political ambitions go terribly awry, with a collapsing approval rating and a long string of serious missteps — embarrassing reversals, an insidery-style that’s become a liability — who wouldn’t want to pull the plug and press reset?

My thinking about quitting is related closely to my thinking about sunk cost and the value of good bankruptcy laws, a favorite theme of Megan McArdle. No one wants to be a quitter. But sometimes you should quit! For example, you’re watching a terrible movie. Say you’re watching Tadpole, a movie so horrible that it makes me want to claw out not only my eyes but the eyes of the creators of the movie itself, just to teach them a lesson. Do you endure the whole thing? I did, and I’ve regretted it ever since.

Sarah Palin had a sense of how this movie was going to an end. Was this unfair to the people who put her in office? Actually, I’m pretty sure a lot of them are relieved. She’s presumably developed broader interests. Her thin-skinnedness doesn’t lend itself well to intense national scrutiny, particularly since she comes from a small-town political culture where cutting corners happens all the time. It turns out that she was, for purposes of personal happiness and fulfillment, in the wrong line of work.

I sincerely think she’d make an excellent television personality. I found her statement affecting. But yes, I can’t imagine she’d be a great president or senator, and those were the logical next steps in this career trajectory.

She could “hunker down” and “get down to business” for the balance of her term — but she’s lost interest! That happens! And to soldier on can be pretty unendurable.

We’re talking about human beings, man.