|For insiders in both parties, Sarah Palin is the fifty foot woman. She strides across Fox News, crushing the airwaves with her chirpy pronouncements. She sells books in cities that most beltway insiders couldn’t find even with GPS. Her popularity is a source of alarm and confusion. From the Sunday and Monday talk shows, one would think that the bad weather that hit the East Coast was a snowstorm conjured up by Palin.
Very important people in the Republican Party mutter in green rooms, according to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, about Palin’s being an embarrassment to the GOP and not being the direction these unnamed GOPers want to go. The irony is that Sen. McCain, once of the pride of the mavericks, brought her to the lower forty eight. As a maverick, Palin has strode past her mentor.
Democrats alternate between dismissive and apprehensive. Some of them are smart enough to keep their mouths shut – realizing that Palin is not, at the moment at least, their problem. Not to worry, though. It won’t be long before some Democrat sees himself as Jack the Giant Killer and wades into the fray.
The latest occasion for mass hysteria? Sarah Palin went to Nashville this past weekend and earned a cool $100,000 bucks sharing her brand of folksy insult comedy with the Tea Party Nation, a whole bunch of people who hung on every word she said. Palin’s shtick is an intermingled fractured fairy tale version of the US Constitution with a fifth grade understanding of American history.
She and her supporters insist on putting the Constitutional Framers on a stainless steel pedestal. They choose to ignore the fact that the Framers allowed only white male landowners to have the vote. With the exception of a letter from Abigail Adams to her husband, John, reminding him not to forget the ladies, there is no evidence that the creators of the new government even considered giving the vote to landless white men, people of color and women. The guys whose names are on streets from sea to shining sea are lionized, while heroes and heroines who fought for those who started out in the back of the pack are forgotten. The study of the fight for universal suffrage is derided as “political correctness”.
Former Alaska Governor Palin, heroine of the right, owes her political career to a bunch of radical left wing women who endured imprisonment, ostracism and isolation to be allowed inside the voting booth. Our foremothers defied family values and flaunted the status quo to give women like Palin a chance. If Palin had any sense of history she would have the grace to be ashamed. Luckily, she does not.
Palin and her Tea Party supporters choose to ignore the ugly fact that, slavery, the peculiar institution, was not abolished by their canonized Signers. That massive undertaking was left to a president who arguably wouldn’t get a vote from the group that met last weekend in Nashville. Abraham Lincoln, the ultimate federalist, was a big government kind of guy who fought a war to give the vote to people who look more like the present First Lady than the former one.
Make no mistake. Palin is the fifty foot woman. Ignore her at your peril. Her weaknesses are her strengths. She doesn’t talk over her audience’s head. She talks to them. She keys in on the frustrations of the left behind. Her audience may be dismissed as a fringe, but there is potential for growth. Those attending the convention last weekend heard not just Mrs. Palin, but a parade of speakers instructing them on political organizing tactics. The Tea Party Nation has plans to be part of the national scene and unless the economy improves, their appeal will grow.
For every “tea bagger” who blames the federal government, specifically Barack Obama, for the ills of America, there are thousands, millions, who may not blame Obama now, but are suffering in this lousy economy. Palin knows it. The tea baggers know it. The only people who don’t seem to know it are our decision makers.
Palin may have no sense of history. She may be a source of discomfort to the establishment. It may be true that she has no ideas, as some have accused. All of the criticism does not lessen the pain that she and the tea baggers are tapping into.
The pain is real and it shouldn’t take a fifty foot woman to point it out to lawmakers.