Regardless of what one thinks of Gov. Sarah Palin, she quit. Quitting itself is not necessarily problematic if one has a good reason to do so. It is unclear she has a good reason. At least three legitimate reasons exist to quit a public office before one’s term has ended. First, if one’s actions or health appear to make it impossible for the official to do the job the official was elected to do, quitting is legitimate. Second, if something arises that fundamentally changes the basic agreement an official had with the voters who elected her, quitting is legitimate. For example, if the official changes parties, quitting is legitimate. Third, if the electorate appears to want the official to resign, quitting is legitimate. The official arguably need not resign under any of these circumstances, but quitting under such circumstances is acceptable.
However, if the official quits to pursue some other task, the official ought to explain precisely why she is quitting and ought to be able to move directly to that post-office task that precipitated the resignation. Spending more time with family in the wake of a scandal, starting a new job at a think tank or going to rehab are all reasonable landing places for officials who quit. The problem with Gov. Palin is that she simply appears to not want to do the job she was elected to do. In her press conference, she appeared to say simply that she had better things to do than be governor of Alaska. Palin’s attempt to tie her decision to quit to her decision to decline to run for a second term and thereby become a lame duck of choice was weak. Being a lame duck hardly means that one cannot run a state effectively. Virginia governors can only serve one term. Of course, it would be nonsensical to suggest that the governor of Virginia could reasonably resign the day after being sworn in if he decides he has something better to do.
It would be interesting to talk to Gov. Palin’s son Track and ask him if, as Palin suggested, he really agreed that his mother should quit. Let’s hope that Track Palin does not try to follow her lead. If Track believes that he can resign from the Army and go home as soon as he decides that he will not re-enlist, he will be in for a rude awakening.