Her whirlwind book-signing tour of the United States now concluded, I've been reflecting on some aspects of Sarah Palin's soaring profile--and popularity. Despite all of the calumny heaped upon her since her Vice-Presidential nomination 16 months ago, some by high-ranking members of her own party, Mrs. Palin is now approved of by nearly as large (and perhaps, even larger) a segment of the American population as is President Obama himself, and by a much larger percentage of Americans than is Congress. Her book, Going Rogue: An American Life, has sold more than a million copies. And Democrat front organizations, characterizing Mrs. Palin as "dangerous," are pleading with their supporters for money to fight the "threat" she poses. That's heavyweight treatment for someone whom they've so long roundly dismissed as a ridiculous flyweight.
Which raises the question: why can't they let go of this obsession with her, and get a real life? What is it about Sarah Palin, non-entity that she supposedly is, that still sends so many people (now mostly diehard liberals and establishment/elite media-academic types) into waves of apoplexy? I've tried to isolate several factors that might contribute to what some have dubbed "Palin Derangement Syndrome," but I'm not sure how they interplay and how much weight each carries in relation to the others. If my liberal friends would help with some of the answers, we might gain enough knowledge to find a cure someday--or better, the formula for an invigorating tonic to distribute to aspiring political leaders.
So, just what is it that gets their knickers in such a hopeless twist?
Is it her down-home, breezy, wink-and-you-betcha, non-intellectual way of connecting with people? Do you assume that that's all a put-on and that she's really a snob like other public figures (except the ones you like, of course), or are you appalled that she really IS like that and that millions of people seem to like it? Would she bother you less if she had a style and charisma level more akin to, say, John McCain's (plain-vanilla, Wonder-Bread, human sleeping-pill)? If that's the case, wouldn't the solution be for those upon whom she grates just to tune her out and ignore her? There are legions of REALLY annoying people out there of all political stripes--what is it about her style, more than others', that provokes such visceral dislike?
Is it her supposed ignorance? As we know, America is choked with ignorant people, and many occupy high positions in government and other walks of life (we won't name names, but the current line of Presidential succession comes to mind). What is it about Sarah Palin's ignorance that's so much more objectionable than theirs? Is it because hers isn't dressed up in Ivy League clothes?
Is it her assumed ambition to high office? Again, you can't swing a dead cat around your head these days without hitting someone who's preening him- or her-self for the Presidency. What is it about Sarah Palin that makes her ambition a matter of special concern? Would you relax if you knew for a fact that she wasn't seeking the Presidency?
Is it her femininity? Are you of the opinion that a young, attractive, motherly woman who adheres to traditional family values could not possibly be considered a feminist and therefore has no valid place in politics?
Is it her goody-two-shoes, girl-next-door, Honest-Abe, shamelessly patriotic image? When you were a kid did you hate the teacher's pets and Eagle Scouts? Are you among those who believe that morality is all relative or a product of social class, that everyone has a price at which he or she will sell out, and that we're all more or less degenerate (and that only those who are honest about it are trustworthy)?
Is it her openly professed religious faith? Does everyone who talks freely about his/her faith rub you the wrong way? Do you reflexively assume that all such people are hypocrites? Do you react to Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists the same way as you do to outspoken evangelical Christians or traditional Catholics? Are you among those who believe that there is no proper place for any religious faith, or for anyone who professes one, in public affairs (from what I can tell, there are many people who think that)?
Is it her conservative, traditional, values-oriented political philosophy? There are hosts of prominent and not-so-prominent people out there who hold such views. Why is Sarah Palin singled out from among them (say, from William Kristol or Fred Thompson) for such intense loathing?
Is it her popularity? There are lots of people in America who are more popular (though steadily fewer, it seems). Are you shocked or concerned--do you feel threatened?--that someone like Mrs. Palin, with such Neanderthal views and so lacking in cultural and intellectual refinement, appeals to so many people?
(It's really that last one, isn't it?)
If it's so obvious to her critics that Sarah Palin is nothing but an empty-headed gasbag and pathetic quitter, wouldn't it be just as obvious to everyone? And if so, can't we expect that she'll simply sink into political oblivion? Then, why are Democrat activists begging for money to fight the "threat"she poses? Why is she still the main attraction on all those Posts, Huffington and Washington et al, and still the favorite punching bag of countless comedians and pundits? Shouldn't they just ignore her? Isn't that how most people deal with those who annoy them--rather than dispatch legions of reporters and fact-checkers to microscopically analyze every word they write or speak and every gesture they make?
I think it should be obvious by now that liberals and know-it-alls can't ignore Sarah Palin. No matter how much it infuriates them, and despite all their attempts to dismiss and destroy her, Mrs. Palin has survived and prospers at the head of a growing movement of otherwise ordinary middle-class people committed to traditional values, simple patriotism, self-reliance, and disdain for intrusive government. There are a lot of votes there, there's anger behind them, and they're not tied irrevocably to either major party. Elites and establishments of all stripes (and their hangers-on) are--or should be--very concerned. Whether or not Mrs. Palin ends up running for President, she now has political influence that must be respected. Opponents of her movement will keep trying to demolish her, but in doing so risk adding to her steel, her popular appeal, and her power.
Derangement has its price.