Who Does this Woman Think She Is?
So why the war against Palin, when Palinisms are not demonstrably different from Bidenisms, Obamaisms, or Goreisms? Uppity-ness I suppose is the short answer. In the binary world of a Sullivan, Letterman, or Griffin, or in the larger culture of network news, NPR, PBS, the New York Times and Washington Post and their columnists, and the weekly newspapers like Time and Newsweek, Sarah Palin is apparently all that they are not.
In such a metro, hip, in-with-it culture, one is supposed to have a thinking-man’s or artiste’s billet of some sort in Washington or New York (that it often comes from nepotism, insider networking, or marriage matters little). Being a mom of five children flies in the face of the demography of yuppie careerism, abortion, and the gay world. Cross-country skiing is OK; snowmobiles polluting the atmosphere and gashing the Earth are not. Credentials matter much: University of Idaho and sports journalism are not polar, but planetary, opposites of Yale and law. Wasilla is to the Upper West Side or Chevy Chase as Uranus is to planet Earth. And how can it be fair that Sarah Palin seems stunning after five children when so many in the DC-NY corridor after millennia on the exercise machine and gallons of Botox are, well, “interesting looking”?
If one is going to drop one’s “g’” and talk to the folks, then do that with Barack Obama’s “Negro dialect” when he “wants to,” not her 24/7 authentic NASCAR/Fargo patois. The former is fake and ephemeral and for liberal purposes and so OK, the latter is real and permanent and often Tea-Partyish — and so scary.
Around Too Long?
But Palin represents more that superficial antitheses. Most polls, and the November election, suggest that the public has had it with deficits, big government, more stimulus and takeovers, and ObamaCare, whether delivered by Democrats or Republicans.
The problem with such an unfocused Tea Party anger is said to be the lack of leadership, which to many is itself somewhat at odds with the grassroots, prairie-fire imprimatur of the movement. But for now, Palin, almost alone, has the star power, the ability to draw enormous crowds, garner attention, raise controversy, to be emblematic of that “don’t tread on me” unease — largely in her mysterious ability to connect with millions in the middle class.
Her liability is that as a mother of five, happily married, and former city-council member, small town mayor, Alaskan regulator, and governor, she has not had a lot of internships at The New Republic, or Gore-like graduate experiences, or tenure among the writers and thinkers in New York. To these few she seems as grotesque as she appears authentic to millions. And to be fair, in Obama-like fashion, she has not had the financial experience of a Romney, the executive experience of a Daniels, or the legislative experience of a Gingrich.
But could she ever win a presidency? The conventional wisdom is no. I say conventional wisdom in the sense of sober and judicious conservative thinkers who raise eyebrows at her exuberance and suspect in an hour meeting they could stump her, in Couric-like fashion, on everything from Balkan fault lines to the work of Edmund Burke.
Someone like a President Palin could really blow it with a hickish bow to a Saudi Arabian autocrat or a rambling apology about American sins in Turkey of all places, or nominate some nut who would have a Truther past or resort to racism or a yokel who would brag about her hero Mao.
But more germanely, Palin need not run for the presidency in 2012 in the manner commentator and newly elected governor Reagan did not until 1968, and did not successfully until 1980 — all the while establishing a populist conservative persona as hated — and successful — during his near two-decade pre-presidential career as a younger Palin might be in the two decades ahead.
Palin is scary not so much in 2012, but that she could be around — and be around in an evolving way — for a long time to come.