May the best 2012 presidential candidate win; just not Palin

Halloween may have been just days ago, but the scariest thing I came across this weekend was an interview Sarah Palin did with Entertainment Tonight.

Oh, there was her usual bundle of winks and dropped g’s. Circling her home in Wasilla, she took questions while the wind swept her hair into her face, making her look all tough and rugged.

The first part of the interview was actually quite tame — no turkeys slaughtered in the background this time — but it wasn’t long before the conversation shifted to the topic I was dreading: Palin’s ambitions for 2012.

(As a side note, I saw a terrific bumper sticker the other day. It said: “Palin 2012, because 10,000 Mayans can’t be wrong.” I wish I could claim credit for that one!)

But back to the interview. The ET host tossed Palin the question, half apologetically, saying that it was on everyone’s mind and thus her job to ask. Everyone wanted to know if Palin would run.

As expected, Palin tried to downplay expectations. She said that she was focused more on the outcome of the midterm elections and implied that she was oh, so busy that she hadn’t given much thought to the more distant presidential election.

Really, Sarah?

When pressed further, Palin’s coy dismissal of her presidential ambitions solidified into a bit of teasing about her conditions for running. Being the family-values conservative that she is, Palin said she would first have to speak to her family about a potential run (meaning there’s still hope for a filibuster from Piper or Willow). But, granted her family’s permission, Palin then would take a “lay of the land” to see if any of the Republican candidates were worthy of her party’s nomination.

If no one stepped up to the plate, would she do it?

Her response: “Of course!”

Hearing these words filled me with two completely different emotions.

My first reaction, perhaps from my more cynical side, was to smile with glee. Not only would her presidential run provide plenty more fodder for SNL, it would also alienate moderates and independents, guarantee Obama a second term in office and hurt Republican prospects across the country. Win, win, win, win. Right?

Not exactly.

The more I thought about it, the more my initial sense of glee gave way to a sinking feeling of apprehension. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Sarah Palin would stand a chance of winning a national election when most people don’t think she’s qualified to be Pitbull-in-Chief, let alone Commander-in-Chief.

It’s not that Sarah Palin poses an electoral threat to Obama or Democrats. Her biggest threat would be the effect she had on the rest of her party. Win or lose, Palin’s presence in the Republican primaries would drag the rest of the contenders so far to the extreme right that any hope of bipartisanship or compromise beyond 2012 would seem unimaginable.

But all hope is not lost. Republicans still have plenty of time to pull things together.

The midterm results are not in as of this writing, but all signs point to Christine O’Donnell losing her Senate bid to Chris Coons in Delaware. I hope this is a symbolic eye-opener for moderate Republicans. I hope they realize that ignorance and good looks are not qualifications for public office, and that a Palin presidential bid would go down in flames, likely dragging the rest of the country down with it.

I guess you could see this as my own personal call for sanity. Moderate Republicans may be a dying breed, but there are still several solid centrist conservatives out there. How about Michael Bloomberg, Charlie Crist, Colin Powell, David Petraeus or Olympia Snowe, to name a few? Heck, compared to this new breed of Tea Party fanatics, even Bush is starting to look like a thoughtful moderate.

At the end of the day, our democracy works best when two parties are able to duke it out over the issues. I welcome a tough, hard-fought presidential campaign in 2012. May the best man (or woman) win.

Just as long as it’s not Sarah Palin.

Jason is a senior in Engineering.