Nice try. Well, it wasn't that nice, but it surely was trying. From mid-day on Friday, August 29, when John McCain picked the hot governor from the cold state, the Axis of Snottiness was in full cry against her, determined to sink her not only as a blow to McCain and his chances of winning, but as a general menace to all it holds dear. Up to 9 p.m. Thursday, October 2, it seemed it was winning, but by 10:30 we knew it had failed. We don't know yet who will be the next president, but we now know three things about Sarah Palin: She survived, she is a very big talent, and she will be around for a very long time. Whether McCain wins or loses, she will lead the new generation of emerging conservatives--Bobby Jindal and Eric Cantor among them--in an eclectic, renewed Republican party, and will be a fair bet to be the first female president. She will endure as an alternative to the standard feminist model--a feminist for the rest of us--which is the ultimate fear of the enclave that tried to destroy her. She will dispute its claim to be speaking for women in general, and will serve as a magnet for the millions of women who are put off by the left-wing orientation and abortion 'rights' litmus test of establishment feminism, not to mention its now-revealed snobbery. It never spoke for more than a small, noisy contingent of women, as is becoming more and more clear.
There is something else that Palin brings to the table, that may be an unspoken source of this angst. She is the first woman near the very top level of politics who really looks and behaves like a woman, a woman whom men want to look at, and other women may want to look like. She has cheekbones to die for, movie-star hair, and has mastered the delicate dress code of looking both stunning and powerful. This is unfair, but it is unfair too that Obama is graceful and charming, and that JFK, FDR, and Reagan were all so good-looking, (though the two latter were a little more long in the tooth). Life is unfair, as John Kennedy said, and it was unfair to none more than to Humphrey and Nixon, who had the burden of running against him. They found him a source of endless frustration. The less fetching army of liberal women may feel something like this. And thus be a little put out.
When Palin was nominated a month ago, Pete Wehner described her as a circuit-breaker that broke a very bad cycle, a dire three years for Republican fortunes, that began with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now we'll see if she and McCain can recover their footing. The Obama advantage in the polls does seem daunting, and is hardly chopped liver, but it may not be as strong as it seems. First, Obama's lead isn't an "earned" one, in that he did nothing to make it all happen: He didn't change his campaign, didn't propose new ideas, didn't do much except stand around looking composed while chaos roared all around him, as the market collapse and the doubts about Palin wreaked holy hell on McCain. Second, McCain has a pattern of looking dead in the water--before the primaries, at the end of Obama's convention, and before that, during Obama's Grand Tour of Europe--before suddenly coming to life. Third, the three major players--McCain, Obama, and Palin--are originals, sui generis, unique in their backgrounds and temperaments, and wholly unlike any other political contenders. Their lives read like novels--two of the three have written best-selling life stories--and there are reasons to like them beyond their own politics: People may want to see our first bi-racial president; to see our first female vice-president; and/or to reward a man who has suffered so much for his country. Add to all this an unprecedented election-year near-fiscal meltdown, and you have an incredible story. And one that is not over yet.
Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.