September 1, 2008
The Coming Trials of Sarah PalinBy J. Robert Smith
Democrats and the left generally can no more accept a Sarah Palin vice presidency than they could Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice. They can no more accept a conservative woman a heartbeat away from the presidency than they can a conservative African-American interpreting the nation's laws. Expect the long knives to be out, and stay out.
Since the Clarence Thomas nomination fight in 1991, conservatives and fair-minded Americans have learned a bitter lesson: for liberals, it isn't about promoting the advancement of all African-Americans, but only those in step with their ideology and aims. The same can be said of women. Liberals believe they own the franchise, and it doesn't allow for baby-making, gun-friendly, God-fearing women, who, not incidentally, fight for lower taxes, smaller government and a strong national defense. They certainly can't be Republicans.
Aside from her xx chromosomes, Governor Palin flunks the liberal litmus test. She presents a powerful and alluring role model for women, especially younger women, who are regularly bombarded with not just conflicting messages about their roles in modern society -- careerist versus mother -- but are regularly lectured by the left, politically and culturally, that if choices are to be made, then career, not family, is preeminent.
Sarah Palin, an obviously remarkable woman, demonstrates that family and career mustn't be mutually exclusive. Yet it's a safe bet that if need be, this wife or twenty years and mother of five would put family first.
Moreover, Palin represents a threat to the left's narrative that, due primarily to the wearing out of conservatism and generational change, voters are moving inexorably their way. Conservatives have argued for awhile that they have no shortage of ideas, but a shortage of candidates and politicians who possess the desire and will to articulate and advance those ideas.
The forty-four year old Palin is in the vanguard of the new generation of conservative politicians. Louisiana's Bobby Jindal isn't far behind. The Palin nomination puts the lie to the argument that conservatism is headed for the dustbin. The Governor's nomination will serve as a clarion call to younger women and men who find her dynamic, upbeat personality, rootedness and strong advocacy of conservative ideas appealing.
Part of Palin's attraction is that she's a solid conservative reformer, who's unflinchingly tackled government corruption -- corruption largely on the part of oil interests and the old bulls in her own party. Ask Frank Murkowski, Alaska's former governor, who lost to challenger Palin in 2006. Or embattled Congressman Don Young, who's heading for a recount against Alaska Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, a Palin ally who the Governor is publicly backing.
She's also told indicted Alaska powerhouse Senator Ted Stevens to take his Bridge to Nowhere back to Washington. Her reformist efforts have won her high approval ratings from voters.
Enter the Long Knives
But the trials of Job lie ahead for Governor Palin. Expect Democrats, the left and their allies in the establishment media to go well beyond the initial attacks on the Governor's inexperience and whatever they can pick out of her record. In the coming weeks, the left's whole political and media machine will seek not only to trip up the Governor to prove their contentions that she's dangerously inexperienced, but will attack her character. They'll especially go after her motherhood, her womanhood and her honesty.
They'll argue that Palin's demanding political career undermines her strong pro-family stances. It's tough enough to be governor and a mother, they'll say, much less vice president and a mother. Certainly, Palin will need to construct a powerful counter to that argument; no doubt, she already has.
Of course, the question is never asked of a man. Case in point, Barack Obama, who has two young daughters of his own. Don't young daughters need a father as much as they need their mother? If the demands of the vice presidency are great, aren't the presidency's demands greater?
This may come as a surprise to politics-obsessed, government-centered liberals, but the perception that the presidency and vice presidency are all-consuming is overblown. That perception owes as much to the drama and stagecraft of those offices as to the facts.
President Reagan didn't live his presidency. Why should he have? George W. Bush isn't living his. Why should he? President Reagan had a life outside the office. President Bush does too. Indeed, there are times when the demands of both offices are great, when the holders are required to go into overdrive and burn the midnight oil. But not typically, and Vice President Palin could well serve as a conspicuous example of an executive who makes an important job and family life work.
And doesn't an attack on Palin's motherhood conflicting with her work life contradict longstanding feminist claims about women pursuing both? The answer is yes, but what does that matter? You expect logic and fairness? The left plays mercilessly for advantage. Contradictions are nuisances. The messaging will aim to bury the contradictions under a blizzard of criticism and negative news stories.
Palin's womanhood will also be questioned, because it is the left which is licensed to define womanhood, just as the left is permitted to define blackness. And make no mistake, feminism is a subsidiary of the left.
By the left's definition, a pro-life woman cannot be a woman. A woman who seeks a family-centered society, not a government-centered society, cannot be a woman. A woman who celebrates traditional American values, and not the secular values of Europeanized liberalism, cannot be a woman.
Sarah Palin is a threat to the left's feminist agenda. She is an eloquent and persuasive testament to the fact that the modern woman can embrace traditional values while seeking her place in the professional world. She can produce better than 2.2 children, love them, engage them and still make a difference in her community, state and nation.
And the left will attack Palin the Reformer. It will seek to undermine her honesty. The left can't help but concede that Palin has fought corruption in Alaska, but they'll assert that her firing of the state's public safety commissioner was a misuse of office; that when it comes to her or her family, she's all too ready to abuse her powers.
Here, again, we must expect that Palin has anticipated the argument. That, as they might say in Alaska, she's loaded for bear. From available news sources, it appears that the Governor was well in her purview to replace the commissioner.
Do note that when it comes to the subject of honesty, nary a word has been expended by the establishment media re-introducing Americans to Joe Biden's law school plagiarism and his lifting of lines from a speech by British Labour Party Chief Neil Kinnock, the latter forcing Biden to exit the 1988 presidential contest. And don't hold your breath.
Countering the Long Knives
With her confidence and poise, Governor Palin will be her own best advocate. But with the onslaught of criticism headed her way, with the game of "gotcha" that the Democrats and the media will play with cunning and relentlessly, she can't be expected to fight the good fight alone. And it isn't enough for the GOP and the McCain campaign to cover her back.
Conservatives from all quarters will need to answer the bell. To defeat attempts by the left and their handmaidens in the media to destroy the Governor's character, the conservative response will need to be swift, sure and unflagging. Conservatives will need to be smart and creative in the ways of getting their arguments and messages to average voters.
The battle of the narratives will begin, with the legacy media and the Democrats on one side and the new conservative media, especially talks radio and the internet, that engine of creativity, research, analysis and energy, on the other.
Sarah Palin's candidacy represents not only a new and important chapter for the conservative movement and the Republican Party, but for the nation as well. And how will you know this? By the volume and ferocity of attacks to come against Governor Palin leading up to the November elections.