At last we've got a reasonable, intelligent, and well thought-out consideration of Sarah Palin from the environs of E.35th St. and uptown.
Kathryn Jean Lopez has, in a few hundred words posted on Friday's NRO, succeeded in saying more about Palin and her effect on current politics than any other commentator associated with the Manhattan conservative bunker crowd. While she's come nowhere near to accomplishing what she set out to do, which is to dam the torrent pouring through the Palin-shaped hole punched in elitist conservatism, it's still an effort worth reading, if only to learn how a level-headed writer deals with a topic this explosive. Lopez begins by pointing out that she herself is no elitist. She goes on to delineate exactly what Palin has contributed to the 2008 campaign so far. Lopez admires Palin, while confessing that she still has to grit her teeth on occasion. This is fair analysis, well above the "Palin is a cancer" comments of the core northeastern crowd. (Anyone who hasn't yet tired of that particular song and dance can get their week's ration and more from Friday's Noonan and Parker commentaries. Noonan's piece is a nice thick slice of defensiveness, while the lovely Ms. Parker ratchets things up a notch or two by revealing that the real conservatives are the ones voting for Obama this year. You'd have never guessed that, now wouldya?)
If the Palin critique had been presented on this level in the first place, there would have been no problem. We'd have all taken the measure of our disagreements and worked out a modus vivendi. But that's not what happened. First, the law was laid down, and when we plebes had the nerve to question our betters, the elite turned around and spat in our faces. (You don't think so? We have been told that we're followers of a human cancer. What do you call that?) We have to know why. Lopez, probably for reasons of friendship -- as she states herself -- doesn't go into this. Which makes her essay much less than it could have been.
We need to know the precise reasons why too many of the core commentators of our movement turned on Sarah Palin. That is the only way that we can discover if the situation can be salvaged. What we've heard so far is only part of the truth, at best. The response to Palin by such figures as Brooks, Frum, Brookhiser, Buckley, Parker, and Noonan (Krauthammer and Will have been considerably more rational, if still mistaken) has been the farthest thing in the world from reasoned. It has been vicious and feral. People do not react to a merely disagreeable political figure in this manner. All the individuals I mentioned, including Krauthammer and Will in this case, have attacked the McCain/Palin ticket with more ferocity than they have Barack Obama, the most socialist presidential candidate since Henry Wallace. This requires an explanation.
People react that way only to threats. We have to know precisely why the conservative elite is threatened by a successful conservative governor to the point that they have completely lost their bearings. The reasons we've heard so far are nonsense -- you don't call a woman a "cancer" because she says "like" too much or wears flashy shoes. If these questions are not answered, then we will be obliged to formulate our own.
My opinion is no mystery to readers of this site -- that the urban conservative crowd is frightened of Palin because she represents a threat to the standard model of conservatism constructed since the wilderness years of the 1930s, in which a highly-educated and well-connected East Coast coterie led a much larger, less-informed heartland contingent. This, like it or not, is elitism. By their very nature, elites tend to corrode over time. And Sarah Palin, through the very fact of her showing up, has revealed this to be the case in our circle. She upset the enclave conservative applecart, and now they are angry -- a lot angrier than they have been at any lefties in recent memory.
Well, applecarts are made for upsetting -- they must be knocked over from time to time, to assure against smugness, arrogance, and decay. You can't simply decry events like this -- you have to learn from them. That is what our little elite is refusing to do. And that tells us all we need to know.
This is not a situation that's going to be put to rest by an essay or two, no matter how well-wrought. The past month has revealed serious, perhaps fatal, failings in the conservative movement. This needs to be worked out one way or another, and it's going to take time. But it must be worked out. It's too late to push it out of sight now. As the man said, a house divided cannot stand. The division in our house can't merely be patched over -- not this time.