Palin's Parlay: What Lies Ahead For The Former Alaska Governor – And Her Religious Right Base?

Yesterday's newspapers were reminiscent of those heady days of fall 2008 – a time when the media and public obsessed over a little-known Alaska politician named Sarah Palin.

Palin stepped down from her position as governor of Alaska on Sunday. As I read news accounts of her resignation speech, it seemed her reasons for leaving the position were vague – but what's even more unclear are her plans for the future.

The Associated Press story on her resignation included a quote from Palin's spokesperson, Meghan Stapleton, who said, "I cannot express enough there is no plan after July 26. There is absolutely no plan."

No plan for Sarah? At all?

That seems shocking to me, especially considering how beloved she is by the Religious Right. I know this firsthand because I have come face to face with many people who just can't get enough of her. It seems like they would follow Palin to the ends of the Earth if they had to.

Last September, I attended the annual Values Voters Summit, a conference in which Religious Right activists gather to discuss issues and strategize. Sarah Palin was not there, but she was all I heard about. Forget that John McCain was the presidential candidate; it was Sarah Palin they were voting for.

As Rob Boston wrote in Church & State, the conference "had the feel of a two-day rally for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, an evangelical Christian. At times during the D.C. gathering, it was easy to forget that U.S. Sen. John McCain is actually heading the GOP ticket. His name was mentioned infrequently. Any use of Palin's name, however, inevitably sparked a round a cheers and applause from the audience. Many attendees sported stickers reading 'Palin Power' and "I heart Palin.'"

So she is going to let down all of these "fans" and just disappear into the background? And they are all okay with this?

To her most rabid followers, it seems Palin can do no wrong. Imagine if a liberal governor had abandoned ship in mid course – essentially turning her back on the people who elected her. I suspect the Religious Right would have something to say about that and label her a "quitter." In Palin's case, the Rev. Donald Wildmon's OneNewsNow right-wing site has run a string of articles excusing Palin's behavior and echoing her bizarre claims that her decision to step down is somehow all the media's fault.

Palin's base probably knows she has no intention of quietly fading away. A woman present at Palin's "goodbye" picnic on Sunday wore a T-shirt that said "Palintologist," defined as "someone who studies Palin and shares her conservative values, Maverick attitude and American style."

"She's really not stepping down," this Palin pal told the Associated Press. "She's stepping up to do something bigger and better."

Maybe that "something bigger and better" involves hanging out with the Religious Right. The 2009 Values Voter Summit takes place Sept. 18-19. Palin has been invited to speak but has yet to confirm. Will Palin soon be starring on the Religious Right's rubber chicken circuit? It's certainly possible.

I don't pretend to be political prognosticator, but I think it's safe to say we haven't seen the last of Sarah Palin.