How Palin’s speech divides America

Fri, Sep 5, 2008 (2:02 a.m.)

I have a confession as I slink out of the ivory tower, outed as I was this week by the stirring hockey mom: I am a media elitist.

Words cannot properly express my shame and guilt. But ’tis true.

As I watched the St. Paul celebration Wednesday night of premarital sex , accidental impregnation and teen marriage, I realized that the values this hockey mom was imparting to the country were far superior to those of my own hockey mom. I realized how out of touch with real Americans I am, especially those from small towns where your simple existence renders you honest and good.

I once thought, growing up in snowy Buffalo (it’s no Wasilla), that a good education and hard work were the ticket to success. But how could my mother know that looking good on camera and reading a sneering, sarcastic speech bereft of substance were the values prized in this country?

My mom, though a big city girl (you know, like Rudy), is not totally unlike Sarah Palin. She brought up four children and dedicated years of her life to helping a handicapped child, although she would never have allowed my sister to be used as a prop. (Republican admonition to the media: Don’t exploit the Palin kids; that’s our job. Indeed, the pro-lifers must be thrilled because considering that Bristol’s unborn child was treated in St. Paul as some living embodiment of family values, it looks as if they have proven life actually begins well before birth.)

Don’t misunderstand: Palin’s speech Wednesday was beautifully crafted to achieve just what the Republicans needed after the Denver extravaganza: A jolt of electricity to a GOP heart that was barely beating. But perhaps obscured by the steely performance of the Wasilla ice queen is that hypocrisy was redolent on that Xcel stage.

Republicans who for months have derided the Democrats as desperately putting their faith in a relatively unknown, inexperienced man they lampoon as a faux rock star are now whipped into exultation by an accidental celebrity who happens to be a relatively unknown, inexperienced woman. Putting lipstick on a partisan pitbull doesn’t make her a hockey mom, it makes her a cynical political pawn (just ask McCain intimate Mike Murphy, caught acknowledging that inexorable fact on an open mike this week).

And what did Republicans call a person four years ago who said he was for the war funding before he was against it? They called him a flip-flopper named John Kerry.

But what are they now calling a person who was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it? They are calling her a sudden superstar named Sarah Palin.

To quote what a former president once said about Obama: “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”

The Democrats are understandably concerned about the Republican fairy princess, who has cast a spell on the GOP base and given them hope that dreams do come true. The Democrats thought they had the dynamic change market cornered, but who can even remember Obama’s Sermon on the Invesco Mount now?

The strategy, which may work, is to attack the Democrats for having a smart, well-educated (Ivy League, the horror!) candidate because the GOP so firmly believes the electorate is benighted enough to fall for it. It helped 56 years ago when Richard Nixon called another eloquent fellow from Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, an “egghead” and out of touch with Real America.

I wonder if my hockey mom knew we didn’t live in that place, where community organizers who give of their time are ridiculed and where being preternaturally ambitious and borderline intolerant are more admirable traits. Then again, as I know thanks to Palin’s illumination, I am an elitist.

Indeed, full disclosure: My dad was — gulp — a professor and my parents don’t even live in America anymore. They live in England and even though they remain American citizens, I am not even sure if they put their Country First. I am not sure I am worthy of living in Palin’s America.

After the convention euphoria subsides — and it will, as it did with the Democrats — Palin will have to prove her mettle without a Teleprompter. She will learn what all politicians inevitably find: Voters have very short memories.

But thanks to Palin’s speech Wednesday, we know what the election is about — not issues, as McCain campaign boss Rick Davis told The Washington Post. It is about dividing real Americans from elite Americans, urban from rural, Alaska hockey moms from California wine-sippers.

I wonder if Mom and Dad have space for me in their spare room.

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