Sarah Palin chose to resign as governor of Alaska in 2009, and then declined to pursue a 2012 presidential bid.
After the 2012 election, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina stepped down as senator to head up the Heritage Foundation.
In Florida, Allen West lost his bid for reelection to Congress in 2012, and he now serves as “Director of Next Generation Programming” at PJ Media and is a contributor to Fox News.
Now Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has decided to retire from Congress.
Joe Scarborough cites Palin, West, Bachmann, and Hermain Cain and argues that their ascents and declines illustrate how “flamboyance” rarely translates into a lasting political impact.
Of course, flamboyance doesn’t necessarily mean political doom. Congress and the governors’ mansions still include plenty of Republicans who are hardly shrinking violets: Senators ;Rand Paul, Tom Coburn, and Tim Scott, Representatives Darrell Issa, Jason Chaffetz, and Steve King, Governors Nikki Haley, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal. Virginia’s attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli might fit that bill.
But the conservative movement probably ought to examine why some of their most prominent leaders elected to high office voluntarily depart the scene when they would seem to still have a lot of metaphorical gas left in the tank. Running for reelection is difficult — particularly difficult, as West learned, when the district lines shift, or if one’s state or district isn’t as certain in its embrace of conservatism as you are. Being a leader outside of office, giving paid speeches, doing media appearances, writing books . . . that’s much easier on the officeholder, his or her personal finances, and their family.
It’s hard to blame someone for wanting the less difficult path. And yet, it’s much harder for the conservative movement to move the ball forward if its leaders depart after a while.