Sarah Palin holds baby Trig following Thursday night's vice presidential debate.
After the vice presidential debate ended, as the TV jurors started delivering their verdicts, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden were joined on stage by their families. Nothing unusual there - except the history-making picture of Palin hugging her 5-month-old son while sharing chitchat with Biden.
Freeze the frame and savor its remarkable collection of milestones.
They start with the fact that Palin is only the second woman to be on a major-party national ticket. She is the first who would take office as the mother of five children, the oldest being 19.
Her baby, Trig, has Down syndrome, and her oldest daughter, Bristol, is pregnant and unmarried. They are both firsts, as far as we know, for any major-party nominee. Oh, and her husband, Todd, is part Eskimo.
History doesn't just happen in the 2008 campaign. It is happening in mind-numbing, holy cow, what-next bunches.
The changes are coming so fast we hardly take notice. Is America really going to elect a black President? Two years ago, that was unthinkable. Now it's very likely as Barack Obama has seized the momentum 30 days from the election.
But before we sprain our shoulders patting ourselves on the back for our color-blind, bias-free selves, let's acknowledge that certain prejudices are far from taboo. In fact, in some quarters they are ascendant and celebrated.
I'm thinking of the overt, outrageous prejudice that infuses some of the contempt on the left for Palin. Scrape away the surface excuses and much of it is because she is a Republican. And an anti-abortion one at that. How dare she!
That the bias comes from people we think of as sophisticated makes it disappointing, but not surprising. After all, contempt for Republicans is the only socially acceptable prejudice remaining among many educated people today.
A celebrated retired journalist, a man I've long admired, was surprised when I told him I hadn't decided whom to vote for. "You're too smart to vote for John McCain," he said, thereby insulting 50 million Americans.
A well-to-do, middle-aged professional woman who identifies herself as very liberal casually declared at a recent social gathering that Palin was unqualified to be vice president. "Look at all those children; she would be neglecting them," the woman said, before adding she herself has five grown daughters.
I could hardly contain myself. "How," I managed to say relatively calmly, "would you feel if a man just said what you said?"
"Oh, I didn't mean anything; I was just thinking of the children," she said sheepishly.
Of course she was thinking of the children. And Jimmy the Greek was just talking history when he discussed slavery and black anatomy and Al Campanis was misunderstood when he said blacks lacked the "necessities" to be baseball executives.
Those unmaskings of raw bigotry came on TV 20 years ago. Times change, and so does prejudice. And not all sightings are dramatic.
George W. Bush appointed the first two black secretaries of state, but does anyone on the left regard him as a racial trailblazer? When I raised that question to another liberal, she dismissed the idea, saying Bush "never thought about race."
That exchange took place three years ago, but I still can't grasp her logic. How does she know what Bush thought? Why would it be more important than what he does?
A similar blind spot toward the political "other" explains much of the contempt for Palin. If she were a Democrat, her unusual life would be spun into a compelling narrative that would make her the darling of the coastal elite.
How she's raising that lovely brood of kids, her care for that severely handicapped baby, her relationship with that rugged hubby who often cares for the kids and is part native, her unlikely rise through the political minefields, her tough knocks and gutsy performance on the national stage - all would be testament to a breakthrough of historic proportions we would be ordered to celebrate in the name of diversity and equality.
Yes, I know there are many legitimate reasons to vote against her and McCain. And I am not arguing for a second they should be supported, least of all because of her gender.
But couldn't we all at least acknowledge Palin's moment and what it means for America?
Apparently not. She must lose, the liberal narrative goes, because she is unqualified, case closed.
Some day, we will look back with disgust at the abuse Palin has taken and wonder how it could happen in this great nation, circa 2008.
Spare me. We already know the answer.