I was once told that if I truly wanted to understand human nature, all that was required was a careful study of one literary body of work: Shakespeare's.
All the major themes of human existence are represented. Love, hate, greed, charity, redemption, etc. are weaved into a brilliant tapestry of literal and allegorical devices. So comprehensive and timeless are many of the Great Bard's lessons that his life's work is often called "The Lay Bible." But like the Good Book, many of the truisms contained within Shakespeare's work and his life continue to be overlooked or completely forgotten.
We would be wise as members of the Conservative movement to realize that what we are witnessing in today's economic and cultural environment is not new. It is merely a new embodiment of age-old prejudices and predilections.
As I watched the mewling throngs of political talking heads trying to explain, demean, or dismiss the appeal of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, I was reminded of a quote from a famous Elizabethan author named Ben Jonson. Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare and famous poet/author in his own right, used to look down from his luxury box at the Globe Theatre in London with derision when confronted with the cheers and roars of the commoners as they watched Shakespeare's plays unfold. He sneered at the "foamy praise that drops from common jaws" as the groundlings would cheer the sword fights of Hamlet or the saucy behavior of Falstaff.
Now for those who don't know, the groundlings were the craftsmen and apprentices who occupied the "cheap seats" in the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's plays debuted almost four hundred years ago. Basically, they were the butchers, the bakers, and the candlestick-makers.
These blue-collar types packed themselves shoulder to shoulder, spending almost ten percent of their daily wages to watch three-hour-long plays, often in the scorching summer sun. The groundlings of old (or as Jonson's ilk would call them on those unusually hot days, "the stinkards") are what we call today "Middle America." They are the Reagan Democrats and the Clinton Republicans. When they find a "good show" and a message they can believe in, they turn out in droves. They are now going to Tea Party rallies and attending conservative book signings. And they are met with the same derision today as they were nearly four centuries ago.
The contempt for Going Rogue is as much an indictment of its readers as it is of the author.
I am not attempting to compare Governor Palin's literary skills to those of William Shakespeare, but she has grasped one of his most important tenets: "Brevity is the soul of wit." Succinct messaging; a crisp, clear delivery; and an occasional swordfight for good measure may pack the seats, but it takes a connective truth -- a "moral to the story" bubbling underneath the spectacle -- to keep fans in their seats and coming back for more.
Conservatives like Sarah Palin have discovered that the truths of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" written over two hundred years ago resonate just as well as Shakespeare's eternal question: "To be or not to be?"
The national GOP has too long been willing to shed that Middle American resonance and lurch for the approval of the Ben Jonsons of history. I ask the leadership of the GOP: Why do you cringe at the thought of Sarah Palin being your nominee in 2012...instead of cringing at the sarcasm you hear from the likes of David Brooks, David Frum, and Frank Rich?
The groundlings are always the first to come and the last to leave, and they are the ones who decide if a play is a hit or not!
Middle America is longing for a message that resonates. Most Americans are too busy working and surviving to bother with esoteric policy fights and indistinguishable differences between Lindsey Graham's stance on cap-and-trade and John Kerry's. They are already heading for the exits as Obama's "Hope and Change" soliloquy has grown stale and proven not what they expected. But if you give the groundlings a good swordfight and a cause to rally behind, they will pack "The Pit" time and time again.
Sarah Palin is not the first to be greeted with the derision and contempt of the cultural elite, and she won't be the last. Middle America is to most politicians and commentators a necessary inconvenience at best, just like the groundlings of old. They are needed to pack the theatre, but once they are in the building, they are expected to sit still and shut up.
As a conservative movement, we have to focus on those who truly pack the theatre and attend the plays -- and not spend our time trying to get Ben Jonson to agree with our choice of playwright or how loud we choose to applaud.
Joseph Hatch can be reached here .