Sunday, August 29, 2010

Liberals Are Looking for Their Own Sarah Palin

The blogosphere is abuzz today about an op.ed. by Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister. Entitled "A Sarah Palin of Our Own," the article bemoans the political ascent of Sarah Palin and decides that, since all else has failed, liberals should try to counter Sister Sarah by finding one of their own. Link here.

Think about it. All that energy wasted. All that righteous anger, that vitriol and venom, for naught. After her shaky start on the national political stage, Sarah Palin has emerged semi-triumphant, not so much as a candidate or as a political figure, but as someone who is leading the national debate.

The irony is too delicious to ignore. For all of the attacks on Sarah Palin's supposed lack of intelligence, she has stepped forward, without any real political power, to exercise a form of political leadership.

The worst part, as Holmes and Traister see it, is that Palin is trying to co-opt the label of feminist, thus depriving it of its leftward tilt and making it less meaningful.

I think it fair to mention that other, stronger feminist thinkers have begun to take Sarah Palin seriously... without the snark and snarl that Holmes and Traister exhibit. I am thinking especially of the women of the DoubleX blog. Link here.

As they noticed, it takes a special kind of intelligence to create a brand like Mamma Grizzlies and to translate it into political influence.

Sometimes it take more intelligence to go high concept than it does to engage in the pseudo-theoretical ravings that get you tenure at many of today's universities.

Anyone who is interested can check out the Sarah Palin tag at the left of this page to check out my posts about Palin and the reaction she has elicited. See especially my post on The Hotness Gap.

While Holmes and Traister cannot disguise their contempt for Palin, one cannot help but think that if left thinking women had been spending as much time building themselves up as they have been spending trying to tear Sister Sarah down, that they would not be having this problem.

When Sarah Palin burst on the national political scene liberals attacked her with uncommon rhetorical violence. From their perspective it was not a bad strategy. Demonization and character assassination do work, for a time, at least.

Sarah Palin became a running joke. Among the literati and the illiterati mocking Sarah Palin became a password that gained you entrance into the inner sancta of the New York pseudo-intelligentsia.

Of course, liberals were in full campaign mode at the time. They were going to do whatever it took to get Barack Obama into the White House. He was going to be America's salvation; he was going to bring back a time when deep thinking intellectuals would be running the country. The McCain-Palin ticket had to be beaten, by any means necessary.

Of course, demonization works best when no one knows anything about the person being demonized. The more people got to know Sarah Palin, especially after the campaign, the more they saw someone who did not seem to deserve the abuse that was routinely being heaped on her.

Moreover, if you are assassinating someone for being incompetent, inept, inexperienced, and ignorant, then you had best, once your team takes charge, demonstrate a high level of competence, eptitude, intelligence and experience.

As we all know now, the Obama administration seems only to have distinguished itself for its overall incompetence and its bumbling ineffectiveness. All of those bright minds do not seem to have a clue about how to manage the government. Their great ideas have done nothing to help the economy; in fact, they seem to have made things worse.

And there was more. After a time American women started seeing Sarah Palin as one of them. Her life was more like their lives than was those of most movement feminists.

It was inevitable that they would see the attacks on Sarah Palin as an especially ugly form of misogyny.

During the campaign Palin did not handle this very well. After the campaign she fought back; she showed that she could give as good as she was getting.

Palin did not adopt the typical feminist grievance mode; she did not complain about why these women were treating her with such vulgar derision.

She stepped above the fray and asserted her dignity. She did not turn the other cheek; she did not walk away from the fight and try to make a deal; she fought fire with fire. In the end she commanded respect.

And she did it better than many feminists had.

And then, reality seemed to conspire to make Sarah Palin's critics look like empty-headed ideologues.

You can argue that Sarah Palin did not have enough experience to be a heartbeat from the presidency, but that charge feels emptier when we have a president who brought even less relevant experience to the job. And whose inexperience is on public display daily.

You can claim that Sarah Palin is unqualified, but how resonant will that charge appear after you have elevated two barely qualified women to the Supreme Court?

You can claim, as Holmes and Traister do, that Palin lacks policy muscle, but does Obama give anyone the impression of having a fully developed policy muscle? And haven't they noticed that our current Secretary of State has no real foreign policy muscle (or experience)?

In a previous post I suggested that the reason feminism has not created its own Sarah Palin is that its adepts have been spending too much time complaining about what was wrong with America. If America is so bad, so misogynistic, and so patriarchal,  how could a true believing feminist dedicate herself to becoming what Sarah Palin became, what I called: a woman in full.

How can feminists make Hillary Clinton their champion when she rode her husband's coattails to power? And how can they present as a role model for young women someone who gained influence by absorbing humiliation and defending her cheating husband.

Of course, next to a woman whose husband is the world's most notorious womanizer, a woman who represents the feminist ideal, Sarah Palin did not have very much of a problem capitalizing on her good looks and sex appeal.

Clearly, Palin's sex appeal has been important. Just as clearly, feminist political leaders tend not to emphasize their own. I would guess that among feminists a too clear presentation of sex appeal is a liability, not an asset.

I offer one final reason why Sarah Palin has garnered the kind of influence and attention that feminists have craved: she is real. She is not a persona invented to demonstrate a political or ideological point.

This means that she has a kind of integrity that is absent from the ideologues on the left. Palin makes decisions using her best judgment, about what is best for her, best for her family, best for her state, best for her country.

She may be wrong, but she offers her best assessment of the issue. She does not worship an ideal or a cause. As long as feminists do, they will never be able to find their own Sarah Palin.

After all, Holmes and Traister do not offer an alternative to Palin. Like good feminists they complain about why there is none.


David Foster said...

The attacks on Palin make it clear, if it wasn't already, that today's "progressivism" isn't so much a coherent body of ideas as an assertion of a person's current or wished-for status position.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

thanks, David, for making the most salient point here. I agree entirely. These attacks on Palin function as status symbols. And the support for Obama relates to the status position of academic and media intellectuals.

Thus, the attacks lack intellectual substance and have nothing to do with policy differences.

Misha said...

Sarah Palin is The Web’s Most Wanted Sarah!
(Check your score for your name too.)
Baby Names Alert.