‘What do you think of Sarah Palin?” That is what women have been asking each other for the past two weeks. Candace Buehner of Royal Oak, Mich., e-mailed to tell me about her enthusiasm for Palin’s candidacy. Beuhner describes herself as a “a 38-year-old working mom who already leaned right. But I have to say that the choice of Sarah Palin has been validating on so many levels. . . . Here, truly, is a woman who is walking the walk.”
Conservative and even moderate Republican women are, in general, wildly enthusiastic and now determined to see the McCain-Palin ticket succeed. But Palin has also touched an important chord that has very little to do with politics or policies.
Buehner writes, “When I struggle, and Lord knows I do, with two young sons and work and a really messy house (did I mention that I just came home from a day-trip to Iowa and found two feet of children’s books and a sinkful of dishes?), when it comes to Sarah Palin, I have nothing on this chick. [She] definitely has inspired me to believe that anything is possible.”
That was very much the same sentiment expressed to me by a 50ish divorcee at the small-town Connecticut café where I get my weekend papers. Over coffee she told me, “I am not sure I always agree with her, and I wish she had more experience. But she inspires me. She makes me feel I can still do anything.” Another friend, a loyal Republican, told me that instead of going to the rally in Fairfax last week, she went to the gym for the first time in years: “Palin has five kids and she looks so good and strong. I bet she wouldn’t mind my missing her appearance if I really try to shape up. I know she’d understand.”
In describing that Fairfax rally, filled with enthusiastic moms, New York Times blogger Judith Warner started out with her usual smarmy sneering. She writes, “[A supporter] handed me back my reporter’s notebook when one of her almost-two-year-old twins, fixing me with a dark look of mistrust, took it away. ‘Liberal media, eh?’ her solemn eyes glared. “Well, watch what you say about my mommy and Our Sarah.” Oh, please.
But even Warner could not totally put down the Power of Palin, what she represents and how she inspires. She writes, “My morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the home schooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making was . . . sobering. ‘Palin Power’ . . . is about making yearnings come true, about deep, inchoate desires about service and respect, hierarchy and family.” Warner got that, but just couldn’t accept that such yearnings are focused on “this unlikely woman.”
Fortunately, many other women, those who don’t write blogs for the Times (or books about how much better it is to be a mother in France than in America, as Warner has), have no trouble understanding Palin’s enormous appeal. Palin inspires primarily because she lives her beliefs with strength, with enthusiasm, and with unswerving commitment to her values — the values her supporters share.
We all know it’s not Palin’s take on the issues, or even her lack of experience, that is driving many women in the media crazy (especially those speechwriter Chriss Winston calls “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Rants”). What is really frightening them is that the woman who finally might do it, break through that glass ceiling, might not have “Democrat” stamped on her uterus. She might not feel that American women, just because they are women and no matter what life hands them, are victims.
And as for how Sarah should handle the out-to-get-her media, Candace Beuhner has some good advice: “Can you believe Charlie Gibson?” she writes. “He reminded me of my four-and-a-half-year-old reprimanding my three-year-old. The whole superior air, followed by an elaborate instruction on the ‘right’ way of doing something, with the grand finale of, ‘Yes, well, that’s because I’m smarter than you.’ In our house, that whole tableau is usually followed by my three-year-old giving his big brother a big whomp on the head. I kept wanting her to say, ‘Come off it, Charlie. We all know who you’re voting for.’ I just wish she could have taken him caribou hunting.”