F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote famously -- and amazingly incorrectly -- that there are no second acts in American lives. Actually, and sadly, that was kind of true for The Great Gatsby author, but not for anyone who's come along since. Consider someone who once seemed to appear daily on this blog, Sarah Palin. When she burst onto the scene (outside of Alaska, anyway) in 2008, I had a gut feeling that even if she lost her vice presidential bid, Palin would be a force to be reckoned with.
And for a time, Palin had the second act of a lifetime. Her trash-talkin', wolf-shootin', reality-showin', Obama-hatin' persona perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the Tea Party era, an era that started with the first Fox airing of Glenn Beck on Jan. 19, 2009, and ended once the last 2010 election results were posted. The Gabrielle Giffords shooting -- and Palin's bizarre "blood libel" reaction to it -- was pretty much the end of that party.
At Fox, Palin represented a particularly angry and juvenile wing of the conservative movement. It's the part that appears deeply obsessed with Obama as a person; an unhealthy obsession that seemed to surpass any interest in his policies. With lazy name-calling as her weapon of choice, Palin served as Fox News' point person for misguided snark and sophomoric put-downs. Palin also epitomized the uber-aggressive anti-intellectual push that coincided with Obama's swearing in four years ago.
And for a while, it looked like the push might work. In 2010, it seemed like Palin and Beck might just succeed in helping Fox change the face of American politics with their signature calling cards of continuous conspiracies (Beck) and perpetual victimization (Palin).
But it never happened.
In the wake of Beck's cable TV departure in 2011, Obama's reelection win in 2012, and now Palin's farewell from Fox last week, it's obvious the blueprint drawn up by Fox chief Roger Ailes was a programming and political failure. Yes, the name-calling and conspiratorial chatter remains at Fox, but it's no longer delivered by Palin who was going to be star some loyalist thought the channel could ride all the way to the White House.
All true. but the reality is that Sarah Palin had the last laugh on all of us. In the summer of 2009, at the zenith of that second act, she realized that the time to cash in was right at that moment, and so she quit her boring day job as governor of Alaska and made herself a millionaire several times over, a living national monument to capitalism. She bedazzled and then befuddled business groups for $100,000 a pop, pontificated on Fox, inked cable deals, and squeezed every last dollar out of fame during that brief meteor shower.
And now it's over.
Because there are no third acts in American lives.