Some of Gov. Sarah Palin‘s critics do not just dislike her. They hate her. However, such groups are relatively few in number. They are the usual suspects on the political left including the abortion-on-demand crowd, big government advocates, tax-and-spend liberals, the feminists who find husbands and offspring to be an annoyance, media elites and the McCain camp.
Perhaps the McCain people do not really hate her, but people close to Sen. John McCain did start an ugly whisper campaign, attempting to hang around Mrs. Palin’s neck Mr. McCain’s Election Day loss. This was not totally surprising. I listened in on the campaign conference call shortly after Mr. McCain withdrew from the 2000 Republican primary. The ugliness we witness today regarding Sarah Palin reared its head on that March 2000 conference call when senior McCain campaign officials were stricken with blind rage against George Bush. It was embarrassing.
In contrast to the Palin-haters is rest of the public. She is popular with them because she is everywoman. They can identify with her. She typifies America’s working moms. Those professional women who work in the rarified air of the cultural centers of gravity and who seemingly make appointments to see their children on weekends and holidays, when their social calendars permit, find Mrs. Palin’s devotion to family pedestrian and distasteful.
Mrs. Palin impresses because she is impressive. She played high school basketball with reckless abandon earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” en route to the state championship. She won a beauty pageant. She married her high school sweetheart and started a family. She partnered with her husband, a union member, in a commercial fishing business. She worked as a television sportscaster before entering politics.
Like thousands of American parents, Sarah Palin got involved in her children’s education by joining the PTA. She was elected a city council member and then mayor. She worked her way to the top of Alaska’s political hierarchy in just 14 years. She ran against the party establishment, challenged the “good old boy network” and defeated a 26-year veteran of electoral politics in the Republican primary and a former governor in the general election to become Alaska’s chief executive.
Mrs. Palin lived at home rather than in the governor’s mansion. She sold the governor’s jet and reassigned the private chef, to her family’s dismay. She gave up the personal driver and she drove herself to work. On occasion, she could be seen in the school carpool lane. According to one report, she stopped her convoy during a campaign appearance to run into a store to buy diapers. No one can imagine Michelle Obama doing something so common.
Sarah Palin rides snowmobiles, fishes, hunts and is a life member of the National Rifle Association. She commands the Alaska National Guard. She negotiated from across the table with Big Oil. And she won. When the state treasury was flush with money, she sent refund checks to the taxpayers.
Women want to be her. Men want to be with her and not just because she is very attractive. Guys feel comfortable with her, rather than threatened by her. She could hang with them all day watching football on TV and it would feel genuine. Contrast this with Hillary Clinton. Guys would expect Mrs. Clinton to lunge for the remote and turn on some man-bashing, made-for-TV movie on one of those men-hating channels.
Immediately after she was introduced as Mr. McCain’s running mate, Mrs. Palin came under relentless attacks. Left-wing bloggers derided her Down syndrome baby, claiming it belonged to her daughter. Liberal journalists dismissed her experience. Hollywood celebrities called her names. Barack Obama supporters launched ugly, mass e-mail campaigns spreading blatant falsehoods.
In a press release, Mr. Obama’s campaign belittled her by calling her a small city mayor, completely ignoring the fact she is a sitting governor. Then the Democratic nominee joined in the personal attacks. Mr. Obama’s not-so-veiled insult that “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” received a standing ovation from his partisan supporters.
Despite all this, one thing is clear: Sarah Palin did not play the victim card. She does not act like a victim, call herself a victim or campaign as a victim. This may be one trait about Mrs. Palin that has so angered the political left. This is because the political left revels in victimhood. For liberals, victimhood is a cottage industry. For a woman to have come this far from such humble beginnings and not claim to be a victim is no doubt unnerving to liberals.
The left loves to label just about every single group, aside from middle-class, WASP males, as “overlooked,” “voiceless,” “forgotten,” “marginalized” and “disenfranchised.” Included among the “victims” are all those groups the left likes to hyphenate: Hispanic-American, African-American and Gay-American, just to name a few.
As the No. 2 on the Republican presidential ticket, Mrs. Palin immediately became the No. 1 target of the sliming, attacks and smears. Her critics feared her during the campaign, but they hate her for her potential for 2012 and beyond.
While the Clinton campaign was still complaining that the former first lady was a victim of sexism, Sarah Palin soldiered on. Throughout the presidential campaign, the Alaskan governor continued to work in the political trenches and build on her legacy, seemingly immune to the attacks. And she was not playing the victim. No wonder Americans like her.
Mark Hyman is an award-winning news commentator for Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.