Thomas Fleming, Scott Richert, and Aaron Wolf have all offered typically thoughtful pieces raising important points to consider in evaluating Sarah Palin. But I would like to offer a different perspective, focusing on the speech Palin delivered at the Republican Convention and the reason the speech succeeded, to the point that Palin now enjoys a higher approval rating in the polls than either Barack Obama or John McCain, not to mention the hapless Joe Biden.
Once the Palin nomination was announced, Palin was subjected to a vicious media onslaught, with the same media that did its best to ignore the story of John Edwards’ infidelity to his cancer-stricken wife lapping up the story of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy with glee, giving credence to false rumors that Palin’s Down syndrome son was actually her daughter’s, and generally treating the Palins as the Clampetts of Wasilla hoping to move to a big mansion with a genuine cement pond. Many of the media criticisms reflected the leftist elite’s disdain for ordinary Americans, and especially its belief that the central defining value for all right-thinking people is support for legal abortion and mandatory sex education. After all, what shocked the media was not that Bristol Palin had engaged in fornication–an activity regularly lauded in the press and glamorized in all the offerings of Hollywood–but that she had not been supplied with condoms and, when those failed, a check made out the nearest abortionist. And there were even ugly criticisms, in a variety of internet sites, of the fact that Palin had not murdered her youngest son when she learned that he would be born with Down syndrome. The Obama campaign even reacted to Palin’s nomination by starting an ad campaign attacking John McCain’s professed pro-life stance, no doubt intended to stir fear that if the crazy Palin makes it to the White House, women will no longer be free to kill unborn handicapped children or unborn children conceived during youthful fornication.
And then Palin took the stage and fired back with poise, confidence, aplomb, and humor. The speech was devastating to Obama because it was true: Obama does talk about ordinary Americans one way in Scranton and one way in San Francisco. And Palin was able to speak out in defense of ordinary Americans in a credible way because, much more than Obama, McCain, or Biden, she is one: she was indeed a small town mayor, and she did first get involved in politics through the PTA. She is not a multi-millionaire. She is not part of any establishment. Her husband does manual labor and belongs to a union. And she exhibits, or at least projects, some of grit and defiance characteristic of the frontier women Roger McGrath has written about in Chronicles.
The fact that Palin struck a chord with millions is a positive sign. It is healthy that millions of Americans still respond to evocations of small town life and the frontier, rather than evocations of victimization and shame in our past. It is healthy that millions of Americans revel in mockery of a corrupt and effete leftist elite, an elite that wishes to erase the last vestiges of Christian morality and pride in the America that existed before the cultural revolutions of the 1960s. And it is healthy that millions of Americans recoiled from the type of attack launched on Palin by the media and capitalized on by the Obama campaign.
To be sure, none of this is a reason to vote for John McCain, a staunch advocate of global free trade, mass immigration, and a belligerent and reckless American imperialism. But it does, in an otherwise dismal political season, offer some reason for hope. Sarah Palin may well end up proving as big a disappointment as most recent Republican politicians have been, but the fact that millions of Americans responded so positively to the speech she gave and the image she projected suggests that, one day, there may actually be a political market for the ideas and policies that, unlike those advocated by McCain, will help in preserving the America Palin’s fans wish to preserve.