Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential nomination made it clear that John McCain chose her not just to flummox women, not just to shore up the Republican rightwing base, but to revive the culture wars. Palin’s performance was especially impressive, considering the humiliating pounding she and her family had endured since McCain selected her. Proving herself expert at Clintonesque jujitsu, she turned the criticisms around, making herself out to be a martyr targeted by the insular haughty Washington elite.
Palin drew a line between those who serve in the army – and those who don’t, between those who live in the bicoastal bubble – and those who live in what she made clear was the real America. To appreciate her performance at its best, remember the angry harsh attacks Marilyn Quayle and Pat Buchanan launched in 1992. Palin was equally sharp but far less shrill. Lines about a candidate who has authored two memoirs about his life but authored no major law, about a small town mayor being like a community organizer – but with responsibility were zingers aimed directly at Barack Obama, delivered with a smile. In her ability to plunge the stiletto so deftly, and so delightfully, Sarah Palin channeled the great hero of depressed Republicans, Ronald Reagan.
Tonight was definitely a big win for Sarah Palin, for John McCain, and the GOP. Of course, the real question is – is this good for America? Does America need another round of culture wars, even if delivered with a smile? I for one don’t think so and hope that this election will be fought about the problems we need to solve rather than the anxieties demagogues can stir.