I never have cared much for Maureen Dowd’s writing, as I am not particularly interested in shallow, vapid people who insist that their Washington, D.C., addresses endow a special kind of wisdom upon them. So, when John McCain decided to name Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, I figured Dowd would check in soon — and she did not disappoint:
The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.
So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching "Miss Congeniality" with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch "Miss Congeniality" with Sarah Palin.
However, Dowd’s catty lines are outdone by others who simply cannot believe that a "real woman" would have political views that are different from theirs. Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun does Dowd even better in "A Woman, but Why This Woman?":
Does McCain think we will be so grateful for a skirt on the ticket that we won’t notice that she’s anti-abortion, a member of the NRA and thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution?
His selection of Sarah Palin is insulting on so many levels that I am starting to feel like the Geico caveman.
You want to look like a maverick and like you think outside the box? Pick a woman for a running mate.
You want to look good to the evangelicals? Choose a running mate with a Down syndrome child.
Of course, the Queen of the Washington, D.C., dinner party set, Sally Quinn also has to make her own catty comments:
McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical and calculated move. It is a choice made to try to win an election. It is a political gimmick. And it’s very high risk. I find it insulting to women, to the Republican party, and to the country.
This is nothing against Palin. From what little we know about her, she seems to be a bright, attractive, impressive person. She certainly has been successful in her 44 years. But is she ready to be president?
And now we learn the 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. She and the father of the child plan to marry. This may be a hard one for the Republican conservative family-values crowd to swallow. Of course, this can happen in any family. But it must certainly raise the question among the evangelical base about whether Sarah Palin has been enough of a hands-on mother.
These are dangerous and trying times for the entire world. This is no time to play gender politics. The stakes are too high. And given McCain’s age and history of health issues, the stakes for choosing a qualified vice presidential candidate have never been higher.
Indeed, after watching Quinn and the Hillary Clinton supporters play "gender politics" for the past year, we suddenly hear that the sex of the candidate really should never come into play. Yet, what really is going on is much different than the issue of "qualifications" or even McCain’s judgment. Instead, we are seeing the Beltway Culture being exposed for being what it is: inbred, insulting, and ultimately clueless.
Before going on, I must make the requisite statement that I am not endorsing Sarah Palin and John McCain, nor do I plan to vote for them. (Being that I live in a state dominated by Democrats, it does not matter whose name I designate, as Obama Barack will win Maryland hands down.) Furthermore, I wholeheartedly agree with Lew Rockwell when he writes:
There is something about Sarah I really like, especially that she seems to have had some sympathy for an Alaskan secession movement, which, contrary to media hysteria, is a perfectly reasonable and liberal position to take. But you can be sure that if she plans to be a successful vice president under a McCain administration, all of this will be swept under the carpet and her primary accomplishment in life will have been to dupe many people into supporting an administration that promises to be the worst thing that has happened to this country since Bush was sworn in.
Nonetheless, I believe that it is important to point out why I believe the Palin nomination exposes the Beltway Crowd and its media and political allies. First, and most important, the Beltway reaction demonstrates how the political classes see real people.
What I mean is that the political classes celebrate various kinds of people in the abstract only. For example, we have been hearing ad nauseum that Joe Biden is a guy with "working class roots." The New York Times breathlessly intoned that Biden — whose father was a salesman, not a factory worker — was a "lunchbucket Democrat," while the Boston Globe went a step further with "an Irish Catholic lunch-bucket Democrat," and so on. Yet, Biden hardly is a working-class stiff and he has been in the U.S. Senate for more than 35 years.
Time and again, we see the glowing references to supposed "working-class" Democrats like John Edwards, who lived in a South Carolina mill village as a child. Yet, what happens when a female candidate with real "working-class" credentials appears on the scene?
The response has been both hilarious and pathetic: We hear things like, "She wears her hair in a beehive," and the press is fixated on her shoes. (I recall that when Martha Stewart was on trial, the press was fixated on what she wore and not on the wretched legal substance on which the charges against her were based.) One would think that McCain had picked Mammy Yokum to be his running mate.
Furthermore, she and her family attend an Assemblies of God church in Alaska, as opposed to a "respectable" church that Beltway pundits might attend (if they go to church at all). (The Assemblies of God are part of the Charismatic movement, which clearly earns derision in the "sophisticated" Beltway, where everyone knows that the purpose of organized religion is to further the American state.)
Indeed, we are seeing how the pundits love to "romanticize" the "working class" just as the Marxists have said nice things about the "proletariat," but actually seeing so-called "working people" as being anything more than political symbols is something else. After all, "working people" don’t go to "respectable" churches and even like NASCAR, and are not alarmed about Global Warming. The "working stiffs," like children, should be "seen and not heard," except if they can agitate for higher minimum wages, most preferably at rallies organized by people from the Beltway.
Second, we are seeing the ultimate Beltway hypocrisy when it comes to children. Leftist blogs like the Daily Kos and Pandagon tried to claim that the Down’s Syndrome child she recently bore really belonged to her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, and that Palin faked her pregnancy. (Actually, that would be quite a feat, since Bristol is five months pregnant and Trig, the Downs boy, was born to Sarah Palin this past March.)
In fact, the whole issue with her five children brings us to another important insight about the Beltway Culture: the people there like children in the abstract, but not in reality. Children mean something only if one can make a political statement about them, or if they are being brought up in government day care centers and government schools. In other words, the only value children bring to the Beltway is that they are a nice backdrop for promotion of state-run programs. Their value is in their political symbolism, and nothing else.
The fact that Palin and her husband chose to have the Downs Syndrome child rather than aborting him also seems to have angered feminists. After all, nine of 10 women who find through pre-natal testing that their child is Downs will have an abortion, so the fact that Palin did not exercise that "choice" has made her even more hated by the pundit class. (The screed by Arianna Huffington herself pretty much sums of the Beltway attitudes toward this woman who dares not to take orders from the Anointed Ones.)
Of course, with the Beltway Crowd, sooner or later it always comes down to sex. It seems that the blogs exploded with anger when the news came out that Bristol Palin was pregnant and would be marrying her boyfriend. How dare they not use condoms! How dare she carry that child to term and not have an abortion! And so on.
It seems that Sarah Palin is not a big fan of having graphic sex education is public schools, so we are told that somehow her child must have been unaware of birth control methods. (Perhaps she should have gone to the nurse’s office, where in most schools they hand out birth control pills.)
Ultimately, the response of the Beltway Crowd has boiled down to this one viewpoint: Sarah Palin and her family are not like the rest of us. Therefore, she is not qualified to be Vice-President of the United States.
The issue of so-called qualifications is another Beltway creation. You see, one can gain "experience" only by having lived in the Beltway or by being a player in the Beltway political culture. This is the political culture that has given us $500 billion federal deficits, financial bubbles, galloping inflation, an energy crisis, murderous wars overseas, unemployment, an exploding prison population, crime-infested inner cities, the Drug War, and brutal suppression of dissent.
Unless one has participated in this litany of evil, or if one has been a mover and shaker for the preceding list, one cannot be considered "qualified" for any position inside the Beltway. Not surprisingly, the dominant political culture has violently rejected Ron Paul and his message of liberty, so it is not surprising that anyone else who is seen as an "outsider" both physically and ideologically will be marginalized.
It seems to me that the violent reaction of Beltway pundits such as Andrew Sullivan (who has called for Palin’s medical records on Trig’s birth to be released) and others is not unlike the violent reaction that the bloodstream has when a foreign object enters it. Unlike most female political "leaders" of the Beltway, Lew Rockwell notes that Palin has cut a much different path in her personal and political life:
The frenzied reaction of the middle class all over the country toward Sarah Palin has no real precedent that I can remember. Indeed, the reaction especially among women is completely understandable. She provides a much welcome cultural break from the chip-on-the-shoulder, grudge-against-the-world model of public women that have been held up to us for years, embodied in the belligerent and insufferable person of Hillary Clinton.
Sarah, on the other hand, is both beautiful and professionally accomplished, a wife and mother and a natural politician, both religious and secular, both feminine and fears no tasks such as hunting that are usually associated with men. She offers a different model of a woman who has excelled not through intimidation and aggressive demands for reparation, but through her own efforts, charms, and intelligence.
Even though I don’t plan to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, nonetheless I am taken by Sarah Palin and have a real admiration for her. This is someone who has earned her stripes in a much greater way than most Beltway women, the very women who reject her and deride her, and look down upon her.
It is true that Palin decidedly is not like the typical Beltway female pundit or legislator. And I say, good for her.
September 4, 2008
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services.