The fight over Sarah Palin is about a lot more than Sarah Palin. It’s about what America means. It’s about what things are truly good and trustworthy. It’s about the worldview and the values that will guide our government and society.
Neither the ferocious outpouring of hatred and derision she has received from the Left, nor the enthusiastic support she has received from the populist ranks of the Right, is caused by her actual record. Many of my liberal friends, whose contempt for Palin outstrips even the contempt they felt for George W. Bush, know little of her record. And half of what they know is wrong, as election-season falsehoods and exaggerations have hardened into “fact” in the minds of Palin’s cultured despisers. And many of my fellow conservatives know more about Barack Obama’s record than they know about Sarah Palin’s.
That’s for good reason. It’s not really about her past. Neither is it about her policies. Her conservative stances are a necessary but not sufficient explanation for why the Right loves and the Left loathes her. Many others who defend the same policies evoke nowhere near the same reaction.
Why, then, does every Sarah Palin item at the Huffington Post fill up with thousands or tens of thousands of hateful comments? Why have we seen, ever since she appeared on the national scene, articles like, “Why They Hate Her,” “Why They Hate Sarah Palin,” “Why Some Women Hate Sarah Palin,” “Why Elite Women Hate Sarah Palin,” “Why Feminists Hate Sarah Palin,” “Why Do Liberals Hate Sarah Palin,” “Why Jews Hate Palin,” “Why Do Jews Hate Sarah Palin So Much,” and even “Americans Hate Sarah Palin”? Why do we find “Hate Sarah Palin Days” at The View and t-shirts professing hatred for Palin and not for Bobby Jindal? The mere sight of her is enough to raise the hackles of most progressives, and the recent success of her daughter on Dancing with the Stars drove many to fits of apoplexy.
So what is the reason for Palin Enragement Syndrome?
The loving and loathing, at least for most, have little to do with her past or her policies. They have to do with her persona. For the populist Right, Sarah Palin is a personification of all that is still good about America: rugged individualism and bootstrapping success, toughness and pluck, firm devotion to Christian family values, a commitment to the cause of life, and the kind of folk wisdom that cannot be gained through graduate degrees but is packaged in common sense and reinforced through the experience of a hardscrabble life. Palin also represents the blue-collar and no-collar ideal of a leader who comes up from the general ranks in a time of great trial in order to restore sanity and common-sense clarity to a government gone mad.
For the cultural elitists on the Left, Palin lacks everything they pride themselves on possessing, possesses everything they pride themselves on scorning, and stands for everything they pride themselves on opposing. She lacks cosmopolitan tastes and elite university credentials, a well-worn passport and fluency in foreign tongues, a blueblood vocabulary and literary speech patterns, not to mention a fashionable address and a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. She possesses a beauty-queen title and the wrong kind of good looks, a large brood of lily-white children with outdoorsy names like Track and Piper, a commoner’s cadence and a steady supply of you-betcha folksy phrases, and a background in conservative white evangelical and even Pentecostal churches. And she stands for the defense of the unborn, for heterosexual marriage, for premarital abstinence, for the extraction of our natural resources, for small government and second amendment rights, for conservative Judeo-Christian traditions and for American exceptionalism.