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Jewish World Review
Sept. 11, 2008
/ 11 Elul 5768
I (Heart) Sarah
Let me count the ways? Nope, space does not permit. Also, mine turns out to be so widely shared a crush that everybody seems to have his own long list of reasons for Sarah Palin's appeal. Here are my two personal favorites:
1.) She has widened the meaning of the Constitution's ban against any religious test for public office ("...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Article VI).
It took a while to extend that protection to exotic types like us Jews, not to mention Muslims, Mormons, atheists, secular humanists ... but widespread prejudice persists against Sarah Palin's kind of people. I'm talking about bible thumpers, holy rollers, Jesus freaks, Christers and other such less than affectionate terms I've heard in elegant living rooms, college classrooms and, of course, newsrooms. Now all those once unmovable prejudices have encountered an attractive, indeed irresistible, force. You can almost hear the stereotypes crumbling.
The same enlightened types who don't have a problem with Muslim women wearing scarves or Jewish men wearing those little skullcaps might raise an eyebrow at the kind of Pentecostal 'do that Sarah Palin sports. Not any longer. I have an idea you're going to see it all over hair stylists' magazines. It'll soon be as fashionable as Jackie Kennedy made bouffant hair and pillbox hats in her time. The Constitution is one thing, fashion another. In this case, they're about to reinforce each other.
I'm not sure what the right term for Sarah Palin's religious persuasion is. Evangelical? Fundamentalist? Post-denominational Christian? All of the above? Whatever her religious flavor, it's about to become much more acceptable in polite society.
2.) Sarah Palin is reshaping not just this presidential election but the country's political future. She's done more than turn this campaign around, revive the Republican Party (which very much needed it), and put a new spring in old John McCain's step. The young people she's attracting to politics this year will be influencing the outcome of many a presidential election to come.
Until a couple of weeks ago, it was Barack Obama who was attracting and shaping the next generation of Americans, even the next America. Now the magic has dissipated, the momentum has reversed. Today, when the more far-sighted Democratic strategists look at Sarah Palin, they have to be concerned not only about the outcome of the presidential election of 2008, but of 2012, 2016, 2020.... Political icons cast long shadows. Before them.
When old John McCain introduced young Sarah Palin as his running mate, it was clear from her first, poised appearance that he'd found political gold in the Klondike. That's when a friend told me he wished he could be a fly on the wall as Democratic strategists try to figure out how they're going to counter the appeal of this hockey mom, moose hunter, long-time small-town mayor, reform governor, new hope of the Grand Old Party, and just plain capital-P Phenomenon.
It's going to be quite a challenge. Has a vice-presidential candidate ever stirred such immediate enthusiasm? Well, maybe Teddy Roosevelt. (He's also the only other one who might have known how to field dress a moose.) My infatuation seems to be shared by millions. "SA-RAH! SA-RAH!"the large and enthusiastic crowds shout at every stop. No wonder John McCain has decided to campaign with her; she's the one who brings out the people.
How in the world are the Democrats going to fight this new star? So far they don't seem to have a clue. The condescension, the baseless accusations, the personal attacks, the distortions ... all that will only backfire, firing up her defenders and attracting more admirers to her cause. Who wouldn't rise to the defense of the lady? Her critics don't dare attack her too harshly she's a deft counter-puncher and yet they can't afford to ignore her, either. I, too, would like to eavesdrop on that Democratic strategy session. There's something fascinating about watching barely controlled panic in action.
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