Why We Love-Hate Sarah Palin
The name Sarah Palin instantly triggers an emotional response in anyone who hears it. To Christian conservatives, it usually includes a big smile and something along the lines of “I love her!” With educated liberals, it’s usually something like “the thought that she could be a ‘heartbeat from the presidency’ makes me ill.” On September 30th, while a guest on “The Daily Show,” Bill Maher commented that “I think people should be very frightened at that. That this person that is going to be perhaps the Vice-President believes in the Bible literally.” Why these two extremes? Part of it may be that Sarah Palin is the most explicitly conservative candidate to be nominated to that high of an office since perhaps the Reagan administration. Even then, I cannot recall any candidate as blatantly and as openly conservative and religious as she seems.
But I don’t think that’s really the problem.
I think when liberals think she’s unqualified they mean it. I think the fact that she is as accomplished as she is while still being, in their view, unqualified, only makes her more irritating and unacceptable and not less. Liberal philosophy emphasizes equality and fairness above all else, and so when someone is successful when they don’t deserve to be (again, in their view), it’s just not fair. In fact, it’s not right. And, let’s be frank, there is a little sense of “if she wasn’t so good looking she wouldn’t be as successful.” Some would scream “sexism!” but the fact is that Palin is very good looking and to deny the fact that sometimes beautiful women do have an advantage in a competitive situation would be foolishness. However, I think it’s fair to say that the conservatives in this country who love Sarah Palin do not like her just for her good looks. After all, many of these people would not allow their children to watch “American’s Next Top Model” because of its “inappropriateness.” Christian conservatives, Palin’s strongest base, tend to deemphasizes physical beauty, not prize it.
So why, then, do these Christian conservatives love Sarah Palin so much? I would say that it is not her looks or her brains but her beliefs. I am not referring specifically to her faith in Jesus Christ, because, undoubtedly, many Christians in this country would not completely agree with her specific theological positions, so to say that they support her purely out of a sense of religious unity would be a misunderstanding of how Christians think. By beliefs, I mean her espoused views on morality and how morality impacts policy and governing. Similar to Obama supporters, Christian conservatives see Sarah Palin as a figure of hope and change. She brings a fresh morality to a morally bankrupt system in Washington D.C. that everyone knows about and sometimes even talks about but won’t do anything about.
Earlier in this election cycle, supporters of Governor Mike Huckabee felt similar about their candidate. When he was effectively eliminated from the race, the conservatives lost their “Obama-esque” figure and were faced with the choice of Mitt “the Android” Romney or John “the old Maverick” McCain. Enthusiasm dropped rapidly. The desire for fresh blood and change was felt universally by the American people, but the Republicans didn’t have “change” to vote for until John McCain made the brilliant political move of nominating Sarah Palin. She became the figure of hope for conservatives, a North Star they could follow across the sea of politics until she led them home to peace of mind. Many Christian conservatives do not hide the fact that they would rather see Sarah Palin’s name on top of the ticket.
There is a major divide here! One side thinks Palin is a disgrace to American politics while the other wishes she was running for President of the United States! If this were a lecture hall I’d ask everyone to look at their neighbor, imagine that the other person supported the candidate you disdain, and then shake their hand and make nice. If there is anybody left in America that does not realize that our differences are so deep and defined and polarizing, they need to open their eyes. If we want to survive as a nation we need to stop talking about how we disagree, and start figuring out why we disagree. Otherwise within twenty or so years we’ll be eating each other alive and decency and respect in politics or anything else will be nothing but a distant memory.