All joking aside, I’m really looking forward to the first episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska tonight, and I say that with dead seriousness. I’ve been in love with Mrs. Palin since those key months of 2008. I even stood in the rain for two hours to hear her speak the day she made a campaign stop in my area — and I was joined by several thousand others. Indeed, I would marry Mrs. Palin if she weren’t, you know, straight and already happily married to Todd (and if I weren’t an obedient Catholic).
Yes – in 2008, Palin was not ready for the national stage. She botched interviews she should not have botched and appeared – to independents – to be troublingly ignorant on several important issues. I believed, however, that her deficiencies could be quickly overcome. Her neighbors had repeatedly placed her in positions of leadership in her native state, so it was clear that they at least believed she had the capacity to adapt and learn. No population, no matter how rural, is going put its fate in the hands of the village idiot.
What mattered more to me in 2008 was Mrs. Palin’s character. Knowledge gaps can be filled. A fundamental character flaw, however, is harder to fix. Obama won millions of adoring fans during the 2008 campaign through his verbal virtuosity. It’s now two years later, and the bloom has come off that rose. Why? Because Obama has a bad character. He is notoriously arrogant, yet also remarkably thin-skinned. He treats his fellow Americans like they are naughty and stupid school children — and is surprised when his countrymen decry his condescension and rebel at the ballot box. Despite his elite education and his capacity to weave a web of pretty words, Obama is an unfit leader. Even a few of his fellow Democrats are whispering this truth behind the scenes.
It may be true that Palin was not ready for the national stage in 2008, but I think it’s also true that the national stage was not ready for her. Most of our politicians – and our journalists, for that matter – hail from urban areas. This elite tends to be cosmopolitan — and if it deigns to acknowledge religion at all, it only does so on Sunday morning. Mrs. Palin, on the other hand, swept in from the remote northern climes, carrying with her a little-understood faith and a passionate attachment to her home. She was largely self-taught – contrary to popular leftist belief, she did in fact read voraciously as a child – and when she spoke, she sounded as if she had just stepped off the set of Fargo. Our elite considered all of these facets unforgivable sins. Obama was accepted by our “betters” as American despite the significant amount of time he spent in Indonesia; Mrs. Palin, meanwhile, was treated as some kind of hideous foreign entity.
But despite my suburban childhood, I am drawn to Palin and repulsed by Obama — and my feelings go beyond mere politics. I am drawn to Palin’s rootedness — and to her common sense approach to all things ethical and political.
I am not frightened by the fact that Palin is a Pentecostal. People associate the Pentecostal movement with weird televangelists and people shouting in tongues, but Pentecostals can be found everywhere, and they’re generally pretty normal people. For goodness sake, there’s even a Pentecostal in the Obama administration. His name is Joshua Dubois, and he’s the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Pentecostalism boasts 580 million adherents of every Christian denomination worldwide (including Catholics, although we call them Charismatics), and the vast majority of those believers are poor. Leftists should be falling all over themselves to welcome Pentecostals into the government in the name of social justice. But, of course, for all its moral preening, our elite left actually dislikes the real, concrete poor. The concrete poor have this icky habit of wearing their faith on their sleeves.
Regarding education, meanwhile, Mrs. Palin and I have at least one thing in common: we both cut our teeth on C.S. Lewis. Lewis is not on the left’s approved list of books (for obvious reasons), but he was in fact a brilliant thinker. His works on Christianity are masterpieces in the history of Christian apologetics, but I think he was even more insightful when he commented upon mid-century Europe’s intellectual zeitgeist. I’m sure Mrs. Palin would agree with my contention that, in Lewis, we can find explanations for many of Western civilization’s current ills.
Palin and I also approach controversial issues in a similar manner. When I was in college (at the hardly prestigious Worcester Polytechnic Institute), I had the opportunity to speak at an undergraduate bioethics conference. The organizers put me in a room with several other students who were also presenting papers which argued against the legalization of physician assisted suicide, so I got a chance to see approaches to the topic that were different from mine. What I noticed was this: while the other students depended upon the arguments of eminent philosophers (Immanuel Kant was often referenced, for example), I argued from common sense, citing the likely social consequences of legalizing PAS. At the time, I had only a glancing familiarity with the great philosophical treatises, but I still came to a conclusion that was similar to that of my peers.
From my observation, Mrs. Palin has also built her worldview in this common-sensical manner. She may not know who F.A. Hayek or Milton Friedman are, but she doesn’t need to. The evidence that these authors were right can be found all around us, and Palin, a natural philosopher and a very smart woman, has gathered that evidence and has managed to draw the correct conclusion without the help of a top-flight education.
The upshot? In many ways, Palin is me.
Mrs. Palin, however, has one thing that I do not: a love of place. As a Navy brat, I moved all over the U.S.A. Consequently, although I’ve lived in Virginia for all but a few of the past 17 years, I don’t feel Virginian. I do have this strong general sense of being an American, to be sure, but there is no one town – no one state – to which I feel connected. Dad has Ambler, PA; Mom, I think, has Salt Lake City, Utah; I have nothing. Palin, on the other hand, is 100% Alaskan. Alaska is in the marrow of her bones; Alaska is in the blood that courses through her veins. And I envy her for that. I envy her for that because I believe G.K. Chesterton was on to something when he argued that a person who is rooted has a fundamental advantage. As he wrote:
… The man in the saloon steamer has seen all the races of men, and he is thinking of the things that divide men — diet, dress, decorum, rings in the nose as in Africa, or in the ears as in Europe, blue paint among the ancients, or red paint among the modern Britons. The man in the cabbage field has seen nothing at all, but he is thinking of the things that unite men — hunger and babies, and the beauty of women, and the promise or menace of the sky.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media do not perceive this depth in Palin. Our journalists are so wedded to their urban, cosmopolitan worldview that they are incapable of seeing Mrs. Palin as anything other than a dumb beauty queen from the sticks. And because of this bigotry – yes, I said bigotry – they have attacked Palin mercilessly for the past two years, in the process convincing many people who otherwise like Palin that she is unelectable. This fills me with an incandescent rage.