Sarah! A New Star is Born

I don’t know if the word has reached Europe yet, but Americans have been in a swoon about the authentic voice of most of America, whose favorite sport is hunting, shooting, and dressing moose and caribou in the Alaska wilds. She is a woman of the American West. She is confident and fearless. And she is so down to earth she seems like someone out of your own parents’ home. This is the kind of woman we all grew up with, the kind that have been the strength of America since the West was opened in the 1850’s. She introduced herself as a “hockey mom” (not soccer, in Alaska), and asked the crowd if they knew the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull. Hardly taking a pause, and with a defiant smile, she added: “Lipstick.”

Sarah, the Governor with an 80% popularity rating, has become the single most admired of the four running mates, more popular than Obama and Biden and McCain.

The Republican center and right regards her as a heroine, and are now wildly enthusiastic about their presidential ticket. Further, the Democrats made a bad mistake in making fun of small towns like Sarah’s Wasilla, Alaska. There are only 262 cities in the U.S. larger than 100,000, but almost 100,000 towns of 10,000 or fewer, such as Wasilla.

The millions of Americans who have disabled children in their extended family had tears in their eyes when Sarah raised her baby who has Down syndrome high above her shoulders, proud of him in front of the convention and the whole world.

New polls say that a majority of Americans regard the press attacks on Sarah as unfair. The sympathy vote has shifted to the Republicans – especially against the oh!-so-sophisticated journalists. The bitter, low-road attacks by the media and some of Obama’s supporters had the wonderful result of drawing an enormous television audience – one of the biggest in political history – to give the Republicans a good look.

Nearly as many Americans watched Sarah’s acceptance speech on television as Barack Obama’s. (Then McCain topped Obama’s total, the next night.)

This is a different country today than a week ago. This is a different election. You can see it on the stunned faces of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Both their confidence and their amour-propre have been wounded by the good-humored needles Sarah (and the other Republicans) have jabbed into them day by day. The presidency, Sarah said, is not a journey of self-discovery. Obama has written two memoirs, she pointed out, but not a single piece of legislation, in the US Senate or in the Illinois State Assembly. Speaking in her perfectly pitched Midwestern/Western twang, with sparkling feminine mischief, she had the audience rolling with laughter, almost as much as Rudy Giuliani before her.

The Democrats attacked Republicans last week with sneers. The Republicans replied with wit and humor and happy laughter.

Wise and intelligent observers of politics are beginning to say aloud that McCain and Palin will win on November 4th. But those who like to be sure they are not being carried away by momentary enthusiasm say the election is likely to be won by small margins in the last few days of the campaign. There are many hurdles for each of the candidates to jump before then. The good news is that Barack does so well in the big urban areas that the best way for him to add to his totals in the most highly contested states is to increase his vote in small towns. He may have lost that chance by the nature of his supporters’ attacks on Americans who live in small towns.

John McCain has never been a great orator. His arms are still stiff from almost six years of harsh physical torture. But his closely-watched speech was immensely touching, as he described how “America saved me” from that foreign prison, and how while he was in prison, he learned how not to put himself first, but forevermore to put his country first. Taking advantage of Governor Palin’s record as a reformer, he told professionals in Washington to “Watch out! Change is coming.”

With Sarah Palin standing beside him, he stole Obama’s campaign theme right out from under him. McCain is now the champion of change.

Which man’s words can you believe in, Obama’s or McCain’s?

Published in Liberal September 7, 2008