Whatever one makes of either one of them, the similarities between Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina (who’s just announced she’s running for president) stop more or less at the chromosomal level. Fiorina is an accomplished (if controversial) businesswoman; Palin, a half-term governor and television star. Fiorina is a graduate of Stanford (with a degree in philosophy and medieval history) and MIT (with a master’s in management); Palin received a degree in, alas, journalism. Fiorina is an unusually articulate for a candidate for public office; Palin is . . . well, Sarah Palin.
Still, the (new) New Republic has developed a bizarre obsession with likening Fiorina to Palin. Last month, an article asked whether “Fiorina is the new Palin.” The evidence: that both Palin and Fiorina had at times criticized Hillary Clinton. Of course, by that standard, Ted Cruz, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders are all the new Sarah Palin.
This week, the magazine once again claims that Fiorina is positively Palin-esque. Staff writer Rebecca Leber writes:
[Kellyann] Conway says that in her focus groups, voters never compare Fiorina to another socially conservative candidate who was once seen as a Washington outsider and inspired widespread praise from the right: Sarah Palin. But the praise for Fiorina is akin to the right’s (especially Kristol’s) embrace of Palin in the 2008 race, when the party expected Palin, as McCain’s vice-presidential pick, to propel the ticket into the White House. In Rising to the Challenge, Fiorina recalls Palin's appearance at the Republican National Convention: “She was an unknown quantity to me, but her candidacy added needed excitement and energy to the race.” That sounds a lot like Fiorina’s pitch for herself.
This is a classic example of meeting necessary but not sufficient conditions. Sarah Palin was a Washington outsider who was popular among some conservatives; Fiorina is also a Washington outsider who is popular among some conservatives. But that does not mean they are equivalent.
Fiorina, as a philosophy graduate, could undoubtedly explain this concept to the good people of the New Republic.