One of the things I understand least about the media’s reaction to Sarah Palin is the need to see her as a symbol of something. Here’s Douthat (from a recent, much-maligned column):
If Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is — the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity — then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure.
I’m as anti-Sarah Palin as anyone this side of Andrew Sullivan, but it would never occur to me to see her as the distillation of anything in particular. I believe — and I think the record shows — that she is a vindictive, power-hungry idiot. So maybe she’s the distillation of vindictive power-hungry idiocy. But that’s it.
I think this is wrong too (from Judith Warner):
The idea that women with a “major education” think they’re better than everyone else, have a great sense of entitlement, feel they deserve special treatment, and are too out of touch with the lives of “normal” women to have a legitimate point of view, is a 21st-century version of the long-held belief that education makes women uppity and leads them to forget their rightful place. It’s precisely the kind of thinking that has fueled Sarah Palin’s unlikely — and continued — ability to pass herself off as the consummately “real” American woman. (And it is what has made it possible for her supporters to discredit other women’s criticism of her as elitist cat fighting.)[….]
This is why Palin — in her down-home aw-shucks posturing — is the 21st-century face of the backlash against women’s progress.
Palin certainly has the “I don’t need no book learnin’ shtick” down, but it’s hard for me to see how the shtick has been aimed particularly at women. She spent a lot of time attacking Obama as elitist, but there was also the idea that she was some kind of counterpart to Hillary Clinton (who has just as elite an eduction as Obama) and that she would appeal to voters who thought that sexism had deprived Hillary Clinton of a shot at the presidency. How does that make her the “face of backlash against women’s progress”?
In the end, all the discussion of Palin’s role in the gender wars or culture wars or whatever it is that we’re supposedly fighting is just a distraction from the simple truth that she is woefully ill-prepared for national office. It really is that simple.