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When a Wasilla, you betcha, no abortion, Christian PTA mom comes on the scene with an Idaho BA, then red flags go up. Poor Sarah—had her mom only been a Colombian aristocrat, she might have at least pulled it off as Sarah Maria Dias-Palin, and compromised some of the furor. Poor Sarah, if she only could speak through nose. Poor Sarah, if she could only show up at her Wellesley reunion.

Moreover Palin does not have Audrey Hepburn/Jackie Kennedy boney looks, or even superficial John Edwards blow-dry smugness: she comes across as real, earthy, and warm, unaffected, the sort of wife most men prefer to a Maureen Dowd or Barbara Boxer shrewish whine.

iii). Right-wing populism also scares the left since grassroots movements are supposed to reflect democracy and the instant expression of popular will. And that is supposed to be good all the time. Yet average Joes listen to Rush Limbaugh in their cars, not Air America, and watch Bill O’Reilly, not MSNBC. Barack Obama was supposed to be a populist phenomenon, by virtue of being an African-American organizer, and we were to like him for his supposed ease with hoi polloi. But we surely cannot be consistent, and extend that notion of authenticity to a Christian, moose-hunter from the snow-bound, wacko far north who talks like the clerk at Wal-Mart—and draws crowds as large as Obama’s.

2.Where Does It All Lead?

Palin faces many of the same problems that sunk Reagan in 1976: the moderate Republicans think she is a shallow, superficial head-nodder, the way they wrote Reagan off in his quest to dethrone Ford. She earns as much resistance from Republican Old Guarders as she does the Obamians. In the elite center-right way of thinking, she knows little of foreign affairs and is not wonkish about domestic issues.

Her supporters’ argument is that any woman who can have five kids, pull herself out of Wasilla to the national political scene, juggle job, husband, family, and press, and take on the old boy Republicans in Alaska while being an anathema to the liberal elite, must have brains and guts. Such experience will easily allow her, given the proper time and campaigning, to master the issues every bit as not well as do Barack Obama or Joe Biden.

Yet since many conservative elites imagine that a Harvard Kennedy School degree is superior to multifaceted knowledge of .357 Magnums, chain-sawing, skinning game, and fishing, they will judge her only in terms of a traditional cursus honorum—spiced up with invective about creationism and Christian fundamentalism. (I have some experience with such snobbishness: when I used to speak before hostile university audiences, I was often introduced along these lines: “Mr. Hanson is a raisin farmer from Fresno State of Jerry Tarkanian fame.” [and therefore, presto, must be an idiot].)