Sarah Palin and the Low Ebb of the Cultural Left

No serious observer or reader could ever label Sarah Palin as our Pangloss of the North.  The former governor's view of politics and of life itself is maturely tragic, as it should be for a true conservative.

Starting with a broad-ranging, 5,000-plus word Facebook note, then her recent Hong Kong address to an international investment group, and in more detail in Going Rogue, Palin explains again and again that the very essence of "common sense conservatism" is a recognition of the limits placed on the mutability of human nature. Government can do only so much. We have to figure out how to muddle through the rest as best as we can.

But recognizing the tragic human condition is not synonymous with despair. And as we roam about the American political landscape and meet up with the controlling pessimism of Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and their crass, partisan underlings and vicious media enablers, something becomes immediately apparent: where Palin goes, people are usually happy. 

This deep, joyful, personal connection Palin makes with the middle class is crudely trivialized by the lamestream media, to use Palin's phrase, as white-trash populism. In a bizarre recent instance of this mindset, Chris Matthews actually provided real-time commentary focusing on the racial makeup of the huge crowds awaiting Palin's first book-signing stop in Grand Rapids. ''Well, they look like a white crowd to me...not that there‘s anything wrong with it, but it is pretty monochromatic up surprise in terms of the ethnic nature of the people showing up. Nothing wrong with that. But it is a fact."

The fact that MS-NBC would this give this cruel, deeply disturbed, fulminating racialist a public forum (though a small one) attests to how venomous our media culture has become. Yet it is Palin who is caricatured as divisive by the left and as superficial even by some putative conservatives. Where Palin's opponents go, people are usually angry.

One of the great challenges when writing about Palin is to maintain focus on her concrete accomplishments (the energy-related legislative agenda she advanced and passed were masterful) while avoiding the traps set by the those intent on reducing her to a mere social firebrand. It is ever the goal of the "elitist loons," a phrase used by Palin to describe John Kerry, to so stigmatize her. Whether by printing an overtly sexist image of her on the cover of Newsweek or by David Brooks insisting that she remains a "joke," the overt goal is to ridicule her beyond redemption.

But Sarah Palin's extraordinary career trajectory, the American life that led from holding moose eyeballs for her father after a morning hunt to vice-presidential candidate, is not so easily dismissed.

The attempt to do so is the low ebb of the cultural left, and it reveals only that they fear Palin more than they hate her. And labeling her as fundamentally divisive is downright absurd, given many of her resounding political victories: winning 75% of voters in her second mayoral run and earning approval ratings of 88% as governor in a state where 70% of the electorate is registered "independent." 

Unlike many women in the liberal political and media firmament whose success is based on the pull from powerful fathers or husbands, Palin's success is as self-made as any American's in political history. That she could build this career in the harsh, male-dominated frontier culture of Alaska is even more astounding. 

Everything Palin accomplished was achieved without inherited money, position, or political connections. Being self-made is something the likes of Sally Quinn could never claim. That Palin is an irresistible media-ratings magnet, beautiful, unapologetic, unabashedly conservative, and Christian just adds to the liberal animus. The attacks of the vipers can only get worse as Palin adds personal wealth to her resume, especially since she will have earned it by selling more books than all of her detractors combined.

Whereas Hillary has always conferred on Sarah the hard-won respect of a fellow political combatant, Sally Quinn -- Mrs. Ben Bradlee -- reveals an uncensored hatred that would be scary if Quinn did not come across as an irrelevant hag. Her invective, focused on Palin's brand of Christianity, was recently on display during an interview with Bill O'Reilly. It is indistinguishable from that offered up by the other jealous witches of the East: Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker, and Maureen Dowd. All four of them might ask if they could accompany Palin on her next religious retreat in order to pick up basic lessons in the kind of Christian charity in evidence throughout Going Rogue, where God is the co-star, appearing by rough count on every eighth page.

As the lamestream media carp away, thousands of eager admirers, including many young women, line up for Palin's signature at every stop. As these young women decide how to comport themselves, as women and possibly as politicians, they could choose a worse model than Sarah Palin.

The soul-nourishing formula that seems to work for Palin is to combine a personal, unthreatening evangelical Christianity with the centrality of family. And then she works very hard, staying true to laissez-faire capitalist principles -- common sense conservatism -- by emulating the much-admired "steel spine" of Ronald Reagan.

This core allows her to stay grounded, simple, true to her beliefs, and consistent and brave in espousing her political philosophy. It has allowed her to endure much, in both politics and life, with grace. And it has provided us with a spectacle of a lifetime. 

Claude can be reached at
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