Kathleen Parker has fallen out of love. Once an enthusiastic supporter of the Sarah Palin pick, she now watches Palin speak with her "finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful," and she notes that "My cringe reflex is exhausted." Parker thinks Palin is getting preferential treatment from those on the right because she’s a girl; that her recent performance has not lived up to expectations or to the narrative. Indeed, Parker takes it a step further and calls for Palin to step down for the sake of the country.
Now this is an interesting and surprising opinion. I like Parker’s work and often agree with her positions. But she has come at Sarah Palin in exactly the opposite direction from which I have come. She started out in love with her and has now soured. In contrast to Parker, I was NOT entirely enthusiastic about the Sarah Palin pick . . . at first. That’s because I thought the the McCain campaign was going for a gimmick and thinking that putting a
man woman on the chess board would put Hillary voters in play. And I knew that would a.) never work and b.) never be enough if it did work. We might have picked up a few women here and there who will vote for a woman no matter what her politics, but the hard core Hillary voters would never go for Palin because they are ideologically opposed to her. And, if there were any doubters on that score prior to Palin’s nomination, I think they’ve been persuaded by now. Clearly, the feminists supporting Hillary are not Sarah Palin’s natural constituency.
So when I saw Sarah speak at the convention, it suddenly hit me that this was all irrelevant, and I softened. Her appeal is not to women so much as it is to what we now commonly refer to as "fly-over" country, middle America, regular Americans or whatever appellation you want to give those who do not believe that their superior wisdom and cosmopolitanism gives them a natural right to preside over the actions of their fellow Americans but think, instead (and quite rightly), that their own life experience and common sense gives them just as much a right to influence and take part in the self-government of this nation as do the biographies of their supposed "betters." They believe that they are every bit as competent (and sometimes, frankly, more competent) in judgment and capacity as are the sorts normally unleashed in Washington and that someone "like them" is just as likely to do a good job as someone with an Ivy League degree, a pedigreed background, the seal of approval from the New York Times or a donor base with a 90210 zip code. I saw that Palin was nothing so simple as a Right Wing version of a feminist--as I feared. She is, if anything, post-feminist in that the bulk of her appeal had almost nothing to do with her sex. True, her sex--and, yes, her looks--did plenty to focus attention on her timely message. But instead of getting uptight or indignant about it, she embraced it and put it to work for her.
After a week of blistering attack that was of an intensely personal nature, Palin emerged at the convention ready to use all the weapons in her arsenal (including lipstick) to full effect. She did it with humor and delight--something sorely missing in the GOP of recent years. Comparisons between her and Reagan may have been premature in many respects, but in this plucky good cheer she was a dead ringer. She was THE highlight of the convention and no one can ever suggest otherwise. She turned around the depleted enthusiasm of the GOP base. She continues, despite continued assaults, to turn out 60K plus crowds in battleground states. All the while she endured a media newscycle that was--up until the markets started melting--singularly devoted to her personal and political destruction.
And Kathleen Parker thinks Sarah Palin should bail because of a few botched answers in some TV interviews? These are all she needs to hear to conclude that Palin is "Out of Her League"? Are you kidding?
May I gently suggest that Ms. Parker not only stop and reconsider but, also consider this: You should stop cringing. It’s not personal. If Sarah Palin fails (either as a candidate or as Vice President) it won’t be any reflection on Kathleen Parker or on conservative women in general. Neither will it be a discrediting of the notion that small town mayors turned governors may be every bit as competent to hold high office as are the likes of Barack Obama. Parker worries that we’re giving Palin preferential treatment and that a man in her position would have been condemned for his poor performance in these interviews. I’m not sure Dan Quayle (another brutally attacked and terribly underestimated GOP VP pick) would agree. Parker’s premature Palin plank-walking prescription would be the height of ingratitude.