"What's So Special About Sarah?"
By Daniel Henninger
"In a less crazed world, the Sarah Palin story -- hunter and snowmobiling mom becomes Alaska governor and routs old-boy political machine in bed for years with energy industry -- would be celebrated. Of course, they have to demolish her.
Sarah's story is the stuff of Erin Brockovich movies and full-page newspaper spreads. Except: She's "pro-life," is a "Christian," and unlike all the white guys who came in second, Sarah looks like she might help get a Republican elected.
It may be possible to pack more downward spin in what is being written about her, but modern media records are being set. Sarah has to be stopped because Sarah looks like trouble.
When John McCain announced in Dayton, Ohio that his vice presidential running mate would be Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, he looked respectable but a little stiff -- a bit like his campaign. Then Sarah spoke. And after lying dormant across two years of presidential campaigning, the Republican faithful exploded.
It would be an exaggeration to say one had never seen anything like it, but the public take-up on the virtually unknown Alaskan governor was phenomenal.
Attribute the surge in the GOP base, if you wish, to Rush Limbaugh's concise Friday afternoon summary: "Sarah Palin: babies, guns, Jesus. Hot damn!" But even that probably won't get you 270 electoral votes.
The really interesting reaction to Sarah emerged just beyond the base. A lot of us picked up real enthusiasm Friday from people, notably women, who've never spent one moment with Politico.com or talk radio.
News columns now are overflowing with doubting women, but wait 'til the real campaign starts. This is going to be good.
One can't subtract politics from a woman who is running for vice president, but Sarah Palin's manifest appeal at the moment is about something larger than retail politics. If it holds up, the Democrats have a problem.
The Sarah Palin story doesn't fit the standard liberal model the past 30 years of what defines a high-achieving woman. The impulse in acceptable political society to condescend to lovely, ebullient Sarah is palpable. If the TV commentators tried to sound any smarter dismissing her qualifications, their big brains would burst.
Who is she? I mean after all, prior to whatever passes for politics up there in Alaska, all she seems to have done was play sports, go to a no-name university and have lots of babies? She's a beauty queen! This isn't even close to your standard East Coast über-woman. Sarah didn't go to Harvard Law and clerk for some legendary judge; her first job was as an Alaskan sportscaster! A great roar has arisen this week from Manhattan (New York, not Kansas): "Look at her standing there with John McCain, thinking she's Little Miss Perfect. My God, she almost sounds like an Alaskan Valley Girl. This can't possibly work, can it??!!!"
We'll find out. For starters, a lot of women voters don't live in New York, Boston, L.A. or San Francisco. Maybe Sarah Palin from Wasilla is a lot closer to the way many women today see themselves than the standard feminist model. Gloria Steinem, one of the many mothers of that ideal, is 74. Sarah Palin is 44. Times change.
Many younger women didn't learn what it means to be an achieving woman from dormitory feminism. She didn't abandon her hometown for the big city. She stayed home, had babies, helped her snowmobiling husband with his commercial fishing business and with him, tried to assemble a life.
She got into politics in Wasilla with zero connections -- no famous father, no financing husband, no mentor, nothing. She got elected mayor. She got into politics to improve her community, not to launch herself on some career path she had figured out while in college.
Then came the interesting part. Under the standard model, you deploy your superb IQ to maneuver upward around the oppressors. Sarah Jock, learning her self-discipline in such weird pursuits as morning moose-hunts with her dad, ran at the system. Doing something few women and no males would do, she went after the men who run Alaska's inbred politics, the machine. And cleaned their clocks. The people elected her governor.
I asked a number of women this week to account for Sarah Palin's sudden appeal. Here are the common threads.
The angry woman-as-victim drives them nuts. They hate victimology. As one woman said, "The point is that across the ages women have been doing pretty much what Sarah Palin has been doing: bearing children, feeding families, bringing in an income, working to improve their communities."
Another woman said, "Her story reflects a more normal reality" of active women; "the harder you work, the luckier you get." Hillary Clinton still plays the victim card. Sarah Palin gives off no victim vibes. These women mentioned her grit, determination and character.
They also said the Roe v. Wade litmus test has become too knee-jerk. Simply writing off Sarah Palin as "pro-life" caricatures pregnancy and motherhood.
Let's stipulate that not all "liberal" women share the Roe-dominated test of which women in public life get a pass and which are shunned. But this notion of sisterhood as a rules-based club is the public face of the feminist message, and in politics message is all -- until it no longer makes sense.
Sarah Palin looks like the old model's first real political challenge. They will be gunning for her. Good luck with that."
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