One of the many things that so infuriates Palin-haters is that she has not adopted the proper veneer of bland sameness that most people in public life affect, a smoothness that often serves to even out idiosyncrasies of accent and regionalism. Ms. Palin refuses to do this. She sports not only a bracelet that marks her as the proud mother of a son who has been in the military, but an accent that marks her as from the far north and simultaneously as “country.”
Many people read the latter as “uneducated,” and therefore “stupid.” The assumption is that Palin doesn’t change these things — she continues to drop her “g’s” at the end of “ing” words, for example — because she cannot do so, rather than because she chooses not to do so. But that assumption may be as incorrect as so many of the other assumptions about Palin.
It may have been Palin’s choice to keep her distinctive personal characteristics rather than bury them, including retaining her accent and even celebrating it. I believe it was a choice; a woman with a will as ferocious as hers could easily have altered her speech pattern with a little bit of effort. Just ask Henry Higgins.
Palin refuses to play the usual games in order to be in with the in-crowd. Her speech and mannerisms express her solidity with many of her constituents, the very people the current Democratic Party and its leaders have marginalized and ridiculed (and largely lost), the ones Obama was describing in his “bitter clinger” speech at a Democratic fundraiser in San Francisco, speaking to fellow Democrats when they thought they were talking amongst themselves. The particular demographic Obama was referring to are the people whom many liberal Democrats do not trust or respect — and they most definitely neither trust nor respect Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin is a college graduate and a woman of no small accomplishment. But she has stubbornly exemplified and even embraced rural working class values and patterns of speech. She wears it all with pride, just as she wore the bracelet: the hunting and fishing, the down-home phrases, the salt-of-the-earth values, the work ethic, the devotion to church and family, the playful wink. These things endear her to her supporters, but mark her as a knuckle-dragging Nascar-loving imbecile to her detractors, who remain smug in their superiority.
If one watches this YouTube video of some of the recent typically chortling mockery of Palin for writing notes on her hand, it appears evident that the most important function of all of this may be as a bonding exercise, a fail-safe device for those who exhibit it to recognize each other and congratulate themselves on their own excellent taste and judgment. In this way they are signaling that they are part of the cognoscenti, an elevated group with the sense to know — and the boldness to state — that Sarah Palin is beneath them, and beneath all thinking, cultured people.
In doing so, they only serve to show their own bigotry, and to further alienate an entire group of voters. But they are either unaware of that fact, or consider it a small price to pay for a chance to demonstrate their own superiority.