I HATE TO pull rank here. But it seems I am almost the only Republican still standing who can criticize Sarah Palin without being accused by my fellow conservatives of suffering from an "elite education. "
Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, Kathleen Parker and [my husband] David Frum have all had their heads put on pikes by the self-appointed rulers of Conservatism. As Rush Limbaugh said:
These are the people who are embarrassed by Sarah Palin 'cause she's not an intellectual and she didn't go to Harvard or have a college degree from approved universities and she drops her g's from words like morning and says mornin'. She's embarrassing, and I think something else really bothering these people is that they believe that she may become one of the key leaders of the conservative movement beyond 2008 if she and McCain lose this.
Those with degrees from approved universities are capable of mounting their own defense. But what about those of us who did not go to Harvard -- and yet whose eyes still bug out at the prospect of a Palin vice presidency, let alone the prospect of her as a "key leader"in the future?
In fact, not only did I NOT go to Harvard, I have no education to speak of. Not beyond high school anyway (and it was one of those large, urban high schools from which many of the most successful graduates went on to become garage mechanics). To paraphrase Melville, a tabloid newspaper was my Yale and my Harvard (and yes, it is possible to have read Melville without attending Yale and Harvard. It's Sarah Palin's kind of story, too: lots of huntin' and guttin' ).
My lack of post-secondary education isn't something I'm proud of. Certainly I've never been moved to boast about it in public. Honestly, if I'd had more sense at eighteen, I would have gone to college -- preferably, an elite one. But I grew up in a newspaper family and was eager to join the business. So instead of spending my early twenties engaged in discussions of Keynes and Friedman, I found myself knocking on the metal doors of public housing developments, asking residents for recent photos of their murdered children. I never said "Get me rewrite" because, more often than not, I WAS rewrite. And like Palin, I was raised to disdain anyone who thought himself too clever or above everyone else (usually a reporter from the competing broadsheet). In my world, an elite degree marked you as someone with permanently retarded judgment, a reader of The New Yorker -- the sort of person of whom Orwell would write, "Only an intellectual could say something so stupid."
Maybe it's because of my background that I've been wary of Palin from the get-go -- and more than taken aback by those who insist the only reason a conservative could oppose her would be because of intellectual snobbery.
Don't get me wrong: I love the idea of Sarah Palin. She conforms to an early American (and pre-feminist) ideal of womanhood: rifle on one hip, baby on the other. I love her modern incarnation of this ideal, complete with Sex-in-the-Tundra wardrobe and kick-ass Jimmy Choos (even if they are paid for by the RNC). I love the idea she represents "common sense" over fancy-pants theorizing. I love -- and certainly identify with -- her real world, "out there" experience over her opponents' closed-off years in Washington. Truly, there are few women I'd rather share a beer with.
The problem is that the reality of Sarah Palin does not match the idea of Sarah Palin. It's as plain as day -- glaringly obvious! -- that she's unfit for the job she's running for. We wouldn't expect the best darn regional car saleswoman to be appointed the next vice president of General Motors. We wouldn't fly in a commercial plane piloted by someone with a Cessna license because we trusted her gut. We wouldn't follow a woman into battle because she's a crack shot at moose hunting. Why is it unreasonable -- or snobbish! -- to have expected a better choice from our party for the next potential leader of the free world?
And please don't reply with, "The other side doesn't have experience either!" That's an argument you can make without having graduated from elementary school.
Those of us who came of age as Reagan Republicans expected more from ourselves. Leave the left to its demagoguery and name-calling. We'll make the case using facts, reason - -and yes, common sense.
Now it seems my side are the ones circling the wagons, shouting abuse at dissenters -- determined to lose rather than ask ourselves why we aren't winning.
As Orwell once might have said...