Among the most astonishing phenomena of the current political scene in the U.S. is the relentless percussion of hatred, animadversion, revilement and outright dissimulation hurled against Sarah Palin—the mirror image of the orgy of adulation which Barack Obama enjoyed prior to his election and in the auroral days of his administration. One is put in mind of the vicious and slanderous campaign waged by the liberal-left against George Bush. But this is something different from Bush redux. The difference is that Bush was a sitting president whose policies many felt, rightly or wrongly, were steering the nation in a perilous direction, whereas Palin is without public office and executive power. The media have clearly gone beyond the limits of reason or propriety.
The question is why. What is it about Sarah Palin that has generated so intense a degree of tractarian misprision, that has turned almost the entire mainstream media against her, and has even led many reflective people to doubt her competence and her intelligence? What explains the abuse she has had to absorb, from being dismissed as a rabble-rousing populist lightweight to being accused as a murderer by proxy in the Tucson shooting?
In an article for FrontPage Magazine, Evan Sayet has essayed an answer to this provocative enigma. “What is it about her that they hate?” he asks, and replies, “It has to be her life story” which, pace her critics, “could not be more laudable.” And that, of course, is the problem. Everything she represents violates the Democratic left’s agenda and narrative: she is a self-made woman, enjoys a stable marriage with her high school sweetheart, has raised a together family, refused to abort her Down Syndrome child, is equally at home in the wilderness and in the halls of State, was a successful mayor and an effective governor, upholds the Constitution, is a doer and not only a talker, and exemplifies the traditional American virtue of self-reliance. Thus, as Sayet writes, “at every turn, Ms. Palin’s story debunks the myths of victimization and self-centeredness that is at the heart of the Modern Liberal ideology.”
In other words, Palin is neither a liar nor a parasite, but a truth-teller and an industrious worker—two attributes that have cost her dearly in a liberal environment dominated by special interest groups, entitlement seekers, political predators, fiscal sycophants, tax evaders, people addicted to welfare, single-parent families living off the dole, labor union apparatchiks, official and media appeasers in the “war against terror”—in short, the swarm of barnacles that have battened onto the ship of state.
Historian and commentator Victor Davis Hanson concurs. In a summarizing article for Pajamas Media, he concludes that Palin’s being “a mom of five children flies in the face of the demography of yuppie careerism.” In the “binary world” of network columnists, late-night TV hosts and the culture of the left, “Sarah Palin is apparently all that they are not.” Moreover, Hanson points out what is palpably obvious but often unadmitted. “And how can it be fair that Sarah Palin seems stunning after five children when so many in the DC-NY corridor after millennia on the exercise machine and gallons of Botox are, well, ‘interesting looking’?” This latter phrase is the most tactful—and tactical—of satirical put-downs, and says volumes about unconfessed resentment. Palin’s undeniable beauty works against her, especially among the feminist sorority, no less than her candidness, moral rectitude and integrity of character feature as liabilities in the eyes of her detractors.
Hanson believes that Palin is “scary not so much in 2012” as an antidote to Barack Obama, but that “she could be around—and around in an evolving way—for a long time to come.” Here I would be inclined to vary, however modestly, from Hanson’s analysis of the menace Palin represents to the liberal-left constituency. The veritable tornado of hatred and defamation to which she has been subjected argues something far more immediate in its implications. What the Democrats and their supporters earnestly fear is not only that Palin may be around for the indefinite future, but that she is indeed potentially electable in 2012 and must be stopped at all costs. This is perhaps the principal motive for so libelous a spectacle as the left’s all-out debauch of vilification. But will the strategy work?
We need to remember that the liberal-left ideology which seems so potent and widespread in contemporary America is to a large extent the creature of a progressivist elite and its media organs, busy collimating their quarry. It does not speak for the vast majority of Americans but, as Arthur Brooks clearly sets out in The Battle, accounts for at most 30% of the nation. What he calls the 30% coalition, grounded in “European-style statism…expanded bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations,” advances an agenda that is not shared by the remaining 70% of the population. And it is precisely here, in the preponderant sector of the electorate, that Palin’s real strength lies.
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