The Shirley Sherrod saga has crowded other stories out of the media over the past few days. The details of the saga are well known and easily available on other Web sites. The 7-10, however, wishes to focus on an unreported political angle to the story.
Many politicians, particularly those who do not hail from safe congressional districts, have understandably been a bit gun shy about responding to this story. Expressing condemnation at Andrew Breitbart, the conservative activist whose edited video served as the catalyst for this story, would presumably lead to criticism among other conservatives who feel that politician is "siding with the NAACP" or is somehow "against Whites." Expressing support for Sherrod may lead a politician to be seen as "playing the race card" or "being in lockstep with the NAACP."
These types of political calculations are understandable, but unfortunate. However, that's the state of today's political and media climate. But this story also affords a few gutsy politicians, particularly those with presidential ambitions, a unique opportunity to distinguish themselves for the right reasons. Sarah Palin in particular could easily increase her political capital by coming to Sherrod's defense. After all, Palin commonly ridicules the "lamestream media" and enjoys her freedom to criticize and avoid them:
"With the shackles off, I relish my freedom to call it like I see it, while starving the media beast that was devouring the false reports about me, my staff and my loved ones."Based on this quote, Palin and Sherrod have a lot in common. While some of the critical stories about Palin may have merit, such as her awkward interview with Katie Couric, Palin is right to be offended at the media frenzy that surrounded her daughter's pregnancy.
"The lamestream media is no longer a cornerstone of democracy in America. They need help. They need to regain their credibility and some respect. There are some pretty sick puppies in the industry today. They really need help."
Being a public figure, Palin naturally commanded (and still commands) public attention. Sherrod, however, did not seek the media spotlight and has had her character and identity destroyed by an influential conservative activist whose personal vendetta against the NAACP renders her as nothing more than collateral damage. If Palin was a victim of the "lamestream media," then Sherrod certainly was too even though some conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, believe the media are at fault for going too easy on Sherrod, whom he believes is "playing the race card."
Should Palin courageously come to Sherrod's defense and criticize Breitbart and the media outlets that piled onto her, she would show her independence, a sense of leadership, and her willingness to "defend what is right," not just what is convenient. It would also earn her a lot of respect from Black voters, moderates, and uncommitted Republicans who may be skeptical about Palin's ideology and political loyalties. Given that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and other potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates have not exactly been making significant inroads with Black voters, this presents a fantastic opportunity for Palin to separate herself from her rivals and earn plaudits from voters who may not have been inclined to vote for her in the first place.
This story is on the verge of leaving the front pages and will likely be finished by the start of next week. There's still an opportunity though for politicians to take a political risk by defending Sherrod and criticizing those who sought her ouster. Palin likely stands to benefit the most from doing so on the GOP side, but as long as she remains silent on this matter, she will be unable to expand her base of support beyond people who are already fervently in her camp.