To be conservative is to be betrayed on a regular basis. You send your kids to a school that tries to slyly indoctrinate them into liberalism, you come home to watch an “unbiased” news show that covers almost every story differently based on whether a Republican or Democrat is involved, and then you try to unwind by watching TV shows that take guarded shots at the values you cherish.
Eventually, election time rolls around and you get two candidates, a Republican and a Democrat, both of whom claim that they want to slash the deficit, oppose gay marriage, and are dead serious about securing the border. Then, when they start governing, unsurprisingly, you find that the liberals are always lying — but even the Republicans turn out to be fudging on what they believe as often as not. Sun Tzu once said that “All war is deception,” but as far as conservatives are concerned, the same could be said of politics and the media.
This becomes especially frustrating because of the incredible double standard that’s present in politics today. On any given day, a decent conservative can make a single gaffe that ruins his career while liberals like Ted Kennedy can leave a woman to drown to death at Chappaquiddick and nobody seems to bat an eye.
Against that backdrop came Sarah Palin, whom most conservatives consider to be the lone bright spot of the 2008 campaign. Here’s a woman that many conservatives identify with not only because they believe she really shares their values, but because she is genuinely what so many other politicians pretend to be: a regular person who got where she is based on merit as opposed to being born in the right family, being wealthy, or being given a break because she went to an Ivy League school.
Given the excitement Sarah Palin has generated on the Right, it isn’t a surprise that liberals hate her, but the amount of venom that has been sent her way is astounding. Even the normal double standard for Democratic and Republican politicians, which at the best of times is wider than the gap between Meghan McCain’s ears, was completely thrown out the window when it came to Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. Grotesque attacks on her family, blatantly sexist insults, and a performance standard that was several levels above and beyond what anyone else in politics was supposed to adhere to was applied to her.
Even after the GOP lost the election, the all-out assault on Sarah Palin and her family continued. Why attack a mere governor of Alaska as opposed to, say Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Boehner, Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee? Because Palin generates more enthusiasm amongst conservatives than all of those people put together. In other words, liberals correctly identified Sarah Palin as the biggest danger to them in the entire Republican Party and they’re doing everything they can to eliminate that threat.
This is why the excessively vicious attacks on Palin from some quarters on the Right make people scratch their heads — particularly since her critics claim to agree with her on the issues and so much of their criticism seems to be, at least on its face, completely irrational.
They said Sarah Palin wasn’t experienced enough — but, despite the fact that Obama has been in the White House for six months, he still has less executive experience than Palin. They said Palin spent too much time talking in platitudes — after America elected a man whose campaign primarily consisted of repeating the words “change” and “hope” over and over. They got upset because Palin was parodied on Saturday Night Live — but, what candidate isn’t going to be ripped to pieces on that show?
To many conservatives, those complaints didn’t seem to make sense when the people making them often seemed to give Obama a free pass for the very flaws they seemed to hate so much in Palin. Where did these strange complaints come from? Why were these “conservatives” so spiteful towards Sarah Palin? What was the real reason that John McCain’s own staff was seemingly working 24×7 behind-the-scenes, after the election, to sabotage the best thing to happen to the GOP in 2008?
An unspoken assumption was made by many conservatives: Palin’s like me and the real problem that Palin’s enemies on the Right have with her is that they’re snobs and they don’t like common people like me. Given the way that conservatives are regularly betrayed and the contempt for them that some Republicans have shown over the last few years, that assessment is probably correct more often than not.
That’s why a lot of conservatives react to criticism of Palin from the Right the same way that they react to criticism of Reagan. Granted, Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan — men like him only come along once every 50-100 years. But, one of the seldom discussed reasons conservatives love Reagan so much is because he was the living personification of their principles. This was the man who put what conservatives believed in to the test in the real world and proved the worth of their ideas. So, an attack on Reagan from the Right is not just considered to be a slap at a politician, it’s usually treated like an assault on the value system of “Reagan conservatives.”
The same principle applies to Palin except the assault is considered to be primarily on people’s identity, not their values. The thinking goes, “If the snobs on the Right don’t like Palin because she’s a conservative with an accent who isn’t rich, didn’t go to an Ivy League school, and wouldn’t be welcome at their cocktail parties, then they wouldn’t like me for the exact same reasons.”
That doesn’t mean Sarah Palin can’t be criticized from Right or that all of her critics have bad motives. Palin certainly can and should be knocked, if and when she deserves it. Her well meaning critics on the Right should just be aware of the dynamic at work here and should tailor their criticism accordingly to make sure that conservatives don’t get the wrong idea.
Last but not least, let me note that there’s only one Sarah Palin and there’s not another soul on the national stage who can even come close to filling her high heels. At a time when the Republican party has lost so many seats in Congress that it’s teetering on the brink of irrelevancy, perhaps more of Palin’s detractors on the Right should ask themselves how much sense it makes to help the liberal media try to tear down the biggest star in the conservative movement.