The Kael Syndrome Returns: Why Democrats are in for a Big Surprise come November

I am beginning to worry about the sanity of the Left. Bush Derangement Syndrome was bad enough. Could any human being so thoroughly epitomize the quintessence of evil that the Bush of the Left’s imagination conjured up? But watching BDS suddenly displaced by an epidemic of Palin Hysteria Syndrome has left me positively alarmed. Have these people taken leave of their senses?


Like many observers, I fully expected to Left to attack her. We are, after all, in a partisan political race and criticizing the other side is a large part of what politics is all about. A few days ago, I quoted William Kristol, who observed in The Weekly Standard that

what we will see in the next days and weeks . . . is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise [the spectre of Sarah Palin]. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

And so it has transpired, but with a virulence and panic-driven hysteria that I find astonishing. Sarah Palin has acted like a sort of locoweed on the media and Team Obama. She stunned them, not into silence (alas) but into a frenzy of groundless vituperation. Watching it is like watching someone suffer an epileptic fit. Quick, fetch me a tongue depressor!

If (mirabile dictu) I were asked to give one bit of advice to the Obama campaign (a group whose membership includes, ex officio, as it were, the professoriate, the main stream media, and other representatives of the so-called cultural elite) it would be this: give up criticizing Palin for her supposed lack of experience. Just give it a rest. As has been repeatedly pointed out in the last few days, Palin has run a company, a town, and the largest state in the republic. No only does she have more executive experience than Obama, she has more executive experience than Obama, Biden, and John McCain put together. Experience is not the issue. As my friend Jay Nordlinger observed with his customary pithiness, “The reason — the main reason — to oppose Barack Obama is not that he lacks experience but that he is a leftist. The reason [for those on the Left] to oppose Palin is that she is a conservative.”


What worries me is how the Left is going cope come the election. Their hysteria about Sarah Palin simultaneously shows that they know deep down that something has gone terribly wrong with Obama’s Children’s “Yes-we-can” Crusade and that they are unable to acknowledge the damage. Their hysteria signals both their panic and their blindness. I predict that on the morning of that fateful day in early November they are going to be like Pauline Kael the day after the 1972 election when Richard Nixon won 49 states: “How could that be?” a bewildered Kael asked. “I don’t know a single person who voted for Nixon.” The disillusionment this time will be even more bitter. I suggest that caring Republicans consider establishing emergency telephone hotlines and outpatient trauma centers in demographically susceptible areas–New York City, for example, Ann Arbor, all of the states of Massachusetts and Vermont, etc.–in order to cope with the shock that their burst bubble will undoubtedly cause.

At bottom, this election is not about “change” or “experience” but about culture, which is to say it is about what we value as individuals and as citizens. It is about some very basic questions: what matters most in a society? How should we live our lives? What place does love of country, of family, of freedom have in the economy of our hopes and ambitions? The crises of the last several years–the threat of Islamic terrorism, economic instability, a newly rampant Russia and Iran–have pushed such questions out of the limelight. But Sarah Palin–the pro-life, gun toting, seriously religious hockey mom and aggressive political reformer–has suddenly brought them back into vogue. As Thomas Lifson notes, “Liberals have long lamented the existence of two nations in America. They are right to do so today, but in a way they never meant. It is not the divide between rich and poor which soon will be causing serious pain on the left. Sarah Palin’s pending nomination for Vice President is exposing the depth of the cultural divide between Middle America and the leftists who have taken over the education, media, and cultural establishment of our country.”


With the victory of John McCain and Sarah Palin, the hegemony of the left-wing establishment in those cultural redoubts will be fundamentally challenged. The Left senses, even if it has yet to face up to, this reality. That is why they are so hysterical. And it is one reason they will wake up repeating the Pauline Kael lament in November.


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