Syndicated conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, of whom I have sometimes been a fan, made waves in the 2008 election with her vigorous distaste for Sarah Palin. She went so far as to call on her to drop off the ticket because she was supposedly so ill-qualified.
She's milked the controversy and negative responses that she's gotten for several columns, including a new one just today. When writing a response, it got long enough that I figured to just make it an open public letter:
Miss Kathleen, I don't want you to be able to easily dismiss my criticism, so I'll try to be nice. I'm not angry anyway, but I have to admit to being a bit contemptuous of some of the Beltway-type anti-Palin Republicans. Leaving you specifically out of it, Peggy Noonan and even the usually totally righteous George Will lost some points with me over Palin.
You all gave in to some really petty idea of elitism here. Now, I'm all in favor of an aristocracy of merit, a kind of elitism, but that's not where Palin fell short.
She's perfectly intelligent and obviously highly competent in her work. She's run things, and Lord knows that she's a multitasker. She knows a lot about a lot of things. Ask her about energy policy or wildlife management issues or child rearing or commercial fishing. Plus, she has a temperament that translates to actually getting stuff done and the character to take on bad actors even in her own party.
She's quite legitimately elite in her knowledge, experience and character. That's how a schoolteacher's kid from the boondocks got where she is. But she got bitten by "conservative" so-called elites largely over stupid prejudice. She didn't go to Harvard. She's got that Marge Gunderson accent. Heck, she even really actually believes in Jesus as opposed to making a mere sophisticated elitist nod to our founders' Christian traditions.
She probably doesn't know much about French symbolist poets or whatever crapola like that we use as an arbitrary standard of intelligence and sophistication but would probably have squat to do with running the country or anything else useful or meaningful. Christopher Buckley just couldn't imagine such a barbarian as a guest at one of Dad's famous dinner parties. This reasoning does not represent truly an elite judgment, but a petty and low-level childish emotionalism based on superficiality.
I've never been one to shoot the messenger. All the columnists in the country collectively didn't have the power to change the election. But you anti-Palin Republican messengers were wrong. Completely, 100% off base. This business of yours about how she should have quit the ticket was just complete foolishness that at least looks like a cheap ploy for attention. But maybe that's just my jaundiced perspective.
In any case, Palin certainly did not cost McCain the election. People hardly ever vote for the veep candidate anyway. McCain was a weak candidate to start with and the Palin pick was the high point of his campaign. Indeed, that pushed him enough that he was actually edging ahead in polls after her pick until the unprecedented market meltdown washed him away. There was no way that even the sharpest veep candidate could have saved that for him.
I would like to direct you specifically to this image. During the campaign, Palin was traveling with Trig and stopped off (in her cheap comfortable traveling clothes obviously not bought by the RNC) at a local Wal-Mart for some diapers. Here she is just standing in the aisle with baby over the shoulder chatting it up with another customer.
This isn't even an example of a politician having "the common touch." There's not a sense of skillful manipulation in her carefully relating to the lower class, but just a couple of normal gals chatting it up in the aisle as equals.
This image and the working class identity implied seems to me to encapsulate a lot of what conservative (and other) elite types really object to. And that is utterly bogus. Plus, it's one of the reasons that she's going to be president someday.
May the ghost of William F. Buckley have mercy, Palin might invite the likes of this Wal-Mart mom into the White House. Fortunately, we elected another Harvard and Princeton team, so we'll be expecting a decent minimum of education and erudition among White House guests in the Lincoln Bedroom. I just hope Bill Ayers doesn't decide to blow it up while he's there.