Today former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin swung into Rochester, New York (the closest city to my home in Brockport) on her national book-signing tour. The excitement, and controversy, have been building around here for days. This was Mrs. Palin's only stop in New York State, so people downstate who wanted a chance to see her--yes, there are some--had the unaccustomed burden of traveling all the way up here to commune with a star. The line started forming yesterday afternoon at Borders Books & Music, and hundreds of people spent the night waiting to get one of the 1,000 wristbands that would get them into the signing, which didn't start until 6 p.m.
UPDATE 11/22/2009: The Rochester book-signing was a huge success! As reported in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Mrs. Palin signed twice the 1,000 books originally expected. Attendees report tat she looked everyone in the eye, shook their hands, and greeted them warmly. But the really exciting thing about this event was that Sarah's parents, as well as Piper and Trig, were there too! What a special gift to all those people who traveled far and braved the damp and chill to camp out at the bookstore for 24 hours or more for a chance to meet Mrs. Palin! Now I really wish I could have been part of that wonderful experience. I was there in spirit, anway.
What's so refreshing--and politically astute--about Mrs. Palin's tour is that it ignores big cities and the other usual venues of power, concentrating instead on the smaller cities, towns and nearby military bases where she can connect directly with the grassroots ordinary Americans with whom she's most concerned (a strategy that's been referred to as "an open slap to liberal America").
Moreover, everyone who wants to meet her has to stand in line, big shot or little shot; there are no VIP receptions or photo-ops with the politically connected. It's just about her and her people, and the things they believe in together. It's a block party in flyover-land, and we're all just neighbors.
A gentleman at the Grand Rapids, Michigan tour stop explained: "She's one of us. . . . We're hard-working, 9-to-5 Joes and like her we didn't go to the elite universities that other politicians went to. She understands real life and she understands America." A teenage girl at the same event said that Mrs Palin was her hero. "She's shown me that I can achieve anything, and be anything I want to be." A Canandaigua, NY resident waiting in line at the Rochester event observed: "She's like us . . . You insult her, you insult us."
And that, I think, sums up why Sarah sends a shiver down the backs of the political and social elites that despise her so. They have little to fear from her personally--she lacks an impressive resume, has no particular wealth or inside connections, is not a profound thinker or a great orator. What they're really appalled, and feel threatened, by is the growing influence she has over the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, who daily grow more determined to replace the prevailing culture of moral and political corruption with the kind of faith, honesty, initiative, resilience, and patriotism that Sarah Palin embodies. They know that she's one of "us," as her admirers everywhere stress, and it's an aware and aroused "us" that they fear most.
The elites' never-ending obsession with Sarah Palin, and their hysterical efforts to destroy her and blunt the movement she represents, are growing truly pathetic. For example, a full year after the general election and three years before the next one, the Associated Press assigned 11 reporters to "fact check" all 432 pages of her new book, Going Rogue: An American Life--although they'd done no fact-checking at all of books by Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Bill or Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama (AP was sharply criticized for the move by the Columbia Journalism Review). Newspaper editorial pages still sprout tired-sounding denunciations of her--usually by local Democrat politicos or assistant poli-sci professors--as "ignorant" and "divisive," whenever and wherever Mrs. Palin appears in public. On the one hand they airily dismiss her as a transparent fool who appeals only to a narrow, marginal class of "extremists." In the very next breath, they warn in dire tones that she's "dangerous" and that the "hateful" hosts she commands threaten to tear apart the very fabric of American society. But they long ago shot their bolt, and are now squirming helplessly because their calumnies have no more effect than water off a duck's back.
I love watching Sarah drive liberals and stuffed-shirt Republicans insane! I revel in their apoplexy as her popularity grows with every interview and whistle-stop (47 percent favorable in a recent Fox News poll) while President Obama's approval rating steadily falls (down to 49 percent in a recent Gallup poll). It warms my heart to contemplate their anxiety as she upsets the status quo, rewrites the political equation, and exposes the establishment elites for what they are. Mrs. Palin's detractors in the media/entertainment complex, academia, and "mainstream" politics are going to realize, if most of them haven't already, that their libel campaign has only made Sarah a martyr in the eyes of millions of Americans, and that they're alienating more and more of the very people whose votes they may need to stay in power.
In the end it doesn't really matter if she runs for or is elected President in 2012. If she helps bring legions of Americans into the camp of limited government, individual freedom, and traditional values, she'll have a positive impact far beyond that of a Presidential term or two. This is the real danger Mrs. Palin poses to the liberal establishment and their fellow-travelers. Right now she's turning legions of otherwise politically inactive people (i.e., those who haven't the time, resources, or inclination to be politically active) into a real, passionate, vocal grassroots movement. She gives them inspiration, hope, a symbol, a voice--and the determination to make that voice heard loudly in the halls of power. Who was the last conservative to do that?
For now, we can all bask in the friendly sunshine brought down here from Alaska by one classy hockey mom!
ONE MORE THING: I don't know what Newsweek thought they were pulling when they recently put on their cover a picture of Sarah Palin in modestly abbreviated running garb. Maybe they thought it made her look ridiculous. Sarah herself complained that it was "sexist." Well, Sarah, for once I have to part company with you--I thought it was flattering! You look young, feminine, fit, and all-American. Yet another attempted slam on you turned into a positive!