Last month, when John McCain announced his running mate, every media outlet in the country simultaneously asked, “Who is Sarah Palin?” Meanwhile, in the bars, coffee shops, and feed stores of small-town America the news was met with smiles and nods. Residents living outside the glare of big-city lights didn’t have to wonder who she was because they already know her: Sarah Palin is just like every other small-town girl.
That affinity is something the mainstream media is still trying to understand. They’re sitting in their gleaming office towers in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta and trying, desperately trying, to understand how Palin — a working mother from a state thousands of miles from the heartland — could hold such appeal for stoic small-town residents.
In this election small-town folks have been called mistrustful and stranger-fearing “typical white people.” Yet as every one of Palin’s campaign appearances has shown, small-town America loves Sarah Palin. Perhaps one reason the MSM doesn’t understand this affinity is that they’ve bought into pop culture’s depiction of small-town residents as tooth-sucking bumpkins who, when not watching NASCAR in our “wife-beater” tank tops with our mouths hanging open, rumble around on dirt roads in beat-up pickup trucks featuring gun racks.
We know better. We know that Sarah Palin, with her naughty librarian vibe, looks just like the girl who sat next to us in school. We know a woman fond of moose stew reflects not only her love of hunting but the same kind of practicality we live with, and we probably have a recipe much like hers. We also know that, when she spoke about small towns and those who live in them, she was speaking from experience and not as some Ivy League-educated globetrotter who thinks our way of life and our values make us bitter.
So the question mainstream media should have been asking is not “Who is Sarah Palin?” but, rather, “Who are these small-town people?” And since I, as a small-town resident, don’t have to waste precious hours sitting in rush-hour traffic so I can get home in time to change clothes and go club-hopping at all of the trendiest venues, I might as well sit on down and explain a few things to the big-city folk who’ll probably get to wondering come election day how the heck an aging and mostly liberal Republican and a hockey mom wearing $89 shoes stomped all over a chardonnay-sipping opportunistic elitist.
Small-town folks value straight talk
“I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”
— Harry S Truman
When Governor Palin took to the podium last Wednesday she talked about her roots and her family, introducing her children and talking about her role on the PTA. She referred to her husband as “my guy” and admitted she calls him “the First Dude.” She laid into Barack Obama so candidly and forcefully that disgruntled liberals whined that the only reason McCain put her on the ticket was that “she’s a woman and she isn’t afraid to engage in the Republicans’ mean-spirited personal attacks.”
Immediately, as Charles Martin notes while separating Palin facts and fiction, people began wondering whether her speech was off the cuff. (It was scripted, just as all political acceptance speeches are.) As she reminded the country that Obama is a senator who’s had time to author two memoirs but not a single piece of major legislation, she sounded like she could have easily been talking, not to an audience of 37 million, but to a group of fellow hockey moms or even just her best friend.