November 26, 2010
The Palin Factor: Even Republican Elites Don't Get It
We all know the left hate Sarah Palin with a passion surpassed only by their loathing for Rush Limbaugh. The list of leftist political, media, and cultural figures who have insulted, smeared, misrepresented, and concocted hit jobs against her is long and varied. With predictable hypocrisy and lack of human decency, they also went after her children, a new trendsetting low for the talking heads America is rapidly coming to despise.
Imagine my shock while perusing last Sunday morning's political articles when I read a New York Times piece by Robert Draper that treated Palin with respect and honesty. Draper's November 17 article, entitled "The Palin Network," is a must-read for those who want to understand the Palin phenomenon. (Those are words I never thought I would write.) Not surprisingly, you will find much about her that belies the media themes of the last few years -- from the New York Times no less, a wonder of wonders.
Next, just as shockingly, I happened upon an article in the Weekly Standard by Matt Labash with a title poking fun at Palin's Twitter abbreviations: "R U Lovin' Sarah's Alaska?" Labash throws quite a number of petty hits at Palin, ridiculing her folksy language, her rural underpinnings, and her lack of "gravitas" in the context of her hit TV show. Conservative elites have heretofore been more circumspect with their criticism, preferring the knife in the back in a dark alley to open confrontation. Apparently, that is changing as 2012 approaches.
While Labash mouths the standard criticisms of the "lame-stream media" in homage to his magazine's conservative bona fides, he is clearly not a Palin fan. Labash channels Dick Armey and Karl Rove throughout the article. It will rub more than a few conservatives the wrong way to see such inane criticism of a conservative icon on the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and not at the Palin-hating New York Times. Palin often criticizes the Republican "old boy network" that brought us John McCain, and for good reason. One wonders what elderly political pulse Labash has his journalistic finger on -- the same one, perhaps, that thinks the government health care-supporting Mitt Romney will make a far better president in 2012 and is positioning against Palin now.
The Labash Palin-bash includes some nasty lines that should have the elites tittering into their expensive cocktails. He refers to "Sarah's Alaska": "And that's what Sarah Palin's Alaska is really about: self-love," meaning, one assumes, self-aggrandizement and tastelessness. This next gem should cost the Weekly Standard some subscriptions: "On the show, this involves seein', and doin', and experiencin' things that don't require a 'g' on the end of them, such as shootin', and rock climbin', and snow machinin', and clubbin' halibut over the head ('let me see the club, you look crazy,' says Bristol to her mom when they do the deed on a commercial fishing boat) and media-critiquin' and BlackBerryin', which Palin gets caught doing even in the midst of wilderness adventures." And "While many suspect Palin wants to be president of the United States, she writes as though she just wants to be president of Brent Bozell's Media Research Center," which I, for one, think is a good thing after the despicable treatment she has received and continues to receive from the press. (Does Labash also hold the Media Research Center in disdain?)
The "Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate" theme came quickly from "old boy" quarters after the midterms. Not that anyone really expected Republicans to take the Senate. One would think a solid House majority, a record number of governorships, and a sweep of state legislatures would go a long way towards mitigating the "cost us the Senate" silliness. They are, after all, directly attributable to the Tea Parties and in large measure Sarah Palin. Our conservative elites ignore the principle behind her endorsements, principle that resonates with the electorate. For many of us, politics is not just about our team winning or losing, but also about those conservative values that make America exceptional and being true to one's word. These are all quaint insincerities when mouthed by the movers and shakers on the beltway, but they are the serious center of the Tea Party soul in the heartland.
What our elites do not understand is that many Americans may tune into "Sarah's Alaska," and unlike Obama, Dick Armey, and Karl Rove, they will see a real person and a real family, someone like them, someone they understand and who understands their world. Elites on both sides of the aisle may look down their patrician noses at Palin for using such a "common" venue or for abbreviating "are" as "r" on Twitter, but they, as usual, miss the point. This last election taught many average citizens something they had long forgotten: their vote counts. They are part of a truly popular movement outside of the mainstream that can and has changed things. They will not soon forget.
As people watch the train-wreck that is the Obama administration unfold, they are beginning to realize just how much the press, the politicians and their government has lied to them. There is a dawning realization that being a mayor of a good-sized town gives a person some very useful skills. Taxes, utilities, law enforcement, education, and myriad other things fill a mayor's day. Palin did it for ten years and did it well. It is true community organizing. It is a leadership proving ground with measurable human consequences -- America and America's problems in a microcosm. Palin cut her teeth there and made it to the governor's office, where, brief though her tenure was, she excelled. Her entry into national politics was perhaps premature, but the crucible of the 2008 election cut away much of her naïveté.
Here in flyover country, we see an honest woman with our values and our best interests at heart. She is not a liar, nor is she a fool, and she is as angry as we are. The "we love her but don't want her to be president" push poll is meaningless two years out from 2012. It is a tool to mute enthusiasm for her. The electorate is tired of "old boys" and their endless manipulations. The Tea Party and Sarah Palin are not sitting back, content to savor the latest victories. The spin-masters and talking heads who lament Palin's lack of "gravitas" forget that Obama has "gravitas" aplenty. Obama's attitude is a façade and an affectation, while Palin, love her or hate her, is the real deal. Unlike Obama, you can read the details in her résumé. That counts for something now.