I know the whole underlying point of Palin’s speech was to prove to rural America that she’s one of us. And I’ve got to tell you, I had this dream last night that the SuperGenius (also a small town girl) and I were sitting around after our high school reunion (we didn’t go to high school together in real life, but in the dream, the SuperGenius, Palin, and I all went to high school together) having a beer and laughing ruefully that somehow Sarah Palin was again going to claw her way to the top, and woe to anyone who gets in her way.
I want to admit that upfront because I just want y’all to know that I’m coming from a place so biased that even in my dreams I hate her and am a little afraid of her. But a place in which I recognize her, deeply, as being “one of us.”
Because what occurs to me, after thinking about it and reading people’s reaction to it is that not one pundit seems to get that her speech was not directed at rural folks. How could it be? In small town America, she’s one of the powerful people. Probably has been most of her life–the kind of person who by force of will could get her way. In small towns, those folks, while respected and feared, are not universally loved. Her schtick about being just a small town hockey mom? It only seems folksy and appealing if you don’t know small town hockey moms just like her.
But that’s not the main thing that has me thinking that she’s not actually about being a small town candidate. The main thing is that she didn’t at all address the concerns of rural Americans I know. What are the Republicans going to do to lower the cost of food? What are their plans for bringing jobs back to small towns? How is she going to address the ways in which Walmart has become both the company and the company store? Why are Republicans talking clean coal and not safe coal? Real rural folks are suffering. And I didn’t hear any talk that even suggested that Republicans have a plan for how to revitalize what is, in essence, a way of life that is dying a slow and very, very painful death.
Instead, she was up there to trot out this Hollywood version of rural life–where we all are just plain folks who sit around and watch our sons play hockey while our families get through “tough times” by the grace of God–that’s designed, I believe, to appeal to conservative suburbanites. To folks who have so much, by most standards–the cars, the house, the jobs, the ability to travel (though not too much), the social currency necessary to keep a daughter’s indiscretions “hidden” in plain sight–and who somehow still feel aggrieved, like there’s still something they’ve not gotten, that they deserve, and they’re pissed about it, even if they can’t exactly put their finger on what it is they’re being screwed out of.
And, in that regard, I think the speech was a success. I’m sure it resonated with a great many in my extened family. But they already were never going to vote for Obama. And that’s what I suspect is the fundimental problem with Palin, if there is one–she will appeal to unCoastal voters who were already going to vote for McCain, but I don’t think she’s going to sway undecided voters AND I’m still left wondering about what religious conservatives make of her (not to raise another tangent this late in the post). I mean, she might have talked about having a servant’s heart, but the way she went after “the opposition” seemed to verge on bullying.
And while I’ve seen many small town Christian men build public careers as bullies, I’ve never seen it play out well for small town Christian women who weren’t acting as surrogates for their husbands.
I guess this is just my long way of saying that I don’t think it’s clear how Palin did.