Why Sarah Palin’s reality show is pure political brilliance (and 3 things you can learn from it)

I’m not a big fan of Sarah Palin, but this post is about her new reality show, not her politics.. It’s no great secret that Palin and politics are probably not done with each other. She’s relatively young, has a very dedicated following, and is probably the best hope the Republican party currently has for electing a woman President. However, outside of her base of hardcore followers, she has a big image problem with the rest of the country. I doubt Obama could have been elected without Palin, and the Democrats have never had as big a fundraising partner as Palin. They probably raise millions every time she mentions the possibility of a run in 2012.

But there is that pesky image problem, so what to do? Create a reality show, of course! The attention span of the nation is short and their memory is even shorter. Many people probably have a lingering distaste for Palin, but they’d struggle to tell you why if put on the spot. Her campaign antics from two years ago seem a distant memory now, so let’s get her back in the spotlight in a more positive way. The handlers who came up with this are brilliant.

If you haven’t watched the show, I encourage you to check out some of the clips. Watch it and imagine how it might strike the Republican base and conservative-leaning independents. I think it’s brilliant: here you have Palin traipsing around Alaska with her family, exploring the great outdoors, hunting, fishing, and going freaking dog-sledding, etc. She’s just loving life.

Most of what we see from politicians at the national level is carefully scripted and positioned to not piss off too many constituent groups. At the presidential level, everything is considered in terms of image and perception, right down to the color of outfits that family members wear. I think people get tired of this level of fake bullshit, so it’s refreshing to see the raw realism of Sarah Palin’s Alaska! After all, this is a reality show, right? No scripting here! Yeah…more on that in a bit.

Most of all, the show just makes her seem so likable. And I bet she really is; politics aside, I bet Palin is a perfectly nice person once you get to know her and spend some time with her. This show does a brilliant job of making her human again, showing her relationships with her husband and kids, her love of Alaska (and America), and not getting too close to any sticky issues. It shows her having fun with her family, something we can all relate to. It’s no secret that many people vote for candidates based on the emotional reasons or the charisma of the candidate, rather than policy positions. This show does a brilliant job of turning Palin into a fun-loving celebrity who loves God, America, her family, and the great outdoors. What could play better with the Republican base?

So what can we learn here?

1. Perception is reality

The great thing about a reality show is that it purports to be based on reality, but the show’s producers actually have the freedom to arrange, script, and edit to their heart’s content. If anyone out there seriously believes that this show is made of Palin’s family just living their normal life with a cameraman in tow, they’re delusional. This show is a strategic exercise in controlling the image and message of a candidate, and doing it under the guise of a “reality show” is another layer of brilliant.

2. Play to your strengths

Sarah Palin ain’t too hot with interviews. She appears less than brilliant on policy matters and complex analysis. And who can blame her; she has no formal training and virtually no experience. But what she can do talk about her family, love of country, and throw out enough Republican-friendly soundbites to make Karl Rove roll his eyes. Since she’s good at that and a large part of the country can relate to that message, let her focus on doing that. She doesn’t really need to talk about policy, because people don’t vote based on that anyway. People just need to like her.

Please note, this wouldn’t work for many politicans. Dick Cheney’s Death Star would be entertaining, but probably wouldn’t help him get elected.

3. Don’t give up

With the thrashing she took in 2008, many thought Palin would never be able to get elected for anything again. The feeling probably intensified after she resigned the governorship in 2009, but she’s still very much in the national spotlight, with a hit TV show and a bestselling book on the shelves. She wields considerable influence with millions of Americans and could easily go on to win elections at the state, congressional, or even Presidential levels in the next two decades. She’s only 46 years old, which gives her a long time to build up her base and rise to power. And let’s face it, she’s doing pretty well so far: she was only elected governor of Alaska four years ago, and before that the highest elected position she held was mayor of Wasilla, population 10,256.

Anyway, do check out the show. If nothing else, the scenery is beautiful, you betcha.