Small Town Values?

Besides being more politically astute than most commentators allow, Gov. Palin also represents a reality that liberal elitists must destroy, according to What I Saw in America.

There can be little doubt that the viciousness of the attacks on Palin … are motivated by fear, not confidence. Sarah is a threat to the Obama coronation, particularly inasmuch as she is the living refutation of his disdain for “bitter people who cling to their guns and religion.” Palin’s happy warrior visage shows that guns and religion and the values of small town America are the sources of satisfaction and joy, not what people console themselves with when they don’t decamp to New York or L.A. Her very existence shines a bright white light on the underlying assumptions of “false consciousness” that the Democratic elite attribute to the working class. Nothing could be more offensive to their therapeutic worldview, and because of that, she must be crushed – feminism be damned.

I’m not convinced of this argument entirely though this it does address a major blindspot for liberal meritocrats, cosmopolitans, the new class, etc.

Is the liberals reaction to Palin worse than to Quayle or GWB?  Mostly no.  Quayle and Bush both came from wealthy and established families yet they were average students (Quayle’s grandfather was a “publishing magnate”).  Insufficient intelligence, diligence and oratory skills for the Office of President were the main liberal gripes against those men.  (These charges were at times overblown and seem to distort the sanity of the accuser in the process)  Palin’s lack of foreign experience or interest stands out for liberals today.

Is criticism against Palin’s international experience elitist or hypocritical?  Yes, a little.  However, familiarity with international affairs are not simply elitist values.  A child in a small town can still read the papers, find teachers who are knowledgable, find extracurricular activites that relate to America’s role in the world.  Is being on your rural school’s Model UN team elitist or contrary to small town values?

There’s something a little odd about assuming a real American would know how to deal with international issues through some gut instinct or knowledge of local economies.  What does knowledge of the closing of the the cannery near Anchorage necessary have to do with US interests in Doha Round of the WTO negotiations?  G’wichen or Aleutian (Alaskan Native) land disputes with Gaza or South Ossetia?  Face to face neighborliness got to do with Putin’s soul?  By the way, reports are that Palin alienates many and creates leadership momentum by threatening reprisals against her adversaries and fear for those considering it.

Are liberals hypocritical about feminism when the challenge Palin’s qualifications?  I don’t know.  It’s mostly a cultural attack (see below), though feminism is certainly a part of Democratic Party culture. When they question her fitness as a candidate and mother of small child, I’m more surprised that equality feminist-types (Linda Hirschman, are you listening) are recognizing a limitation on their gender. It is a sad charge, that a mother of newborn can’t be a presidential contender and raises tough questions.  If Republicans were saying such things about a Dem, they’d be labeled neanderthals.

The small town value most electrifying to the conservative base is Palin’s traditional Christian faith.  Give me Ox-Bridge orthodoxy (Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkein) over faith that has never been challenged.  Faith that is strong AND knows how to speak to the sentiments of not-yet believers.  Perhaps even writing sci-fi or children’s stories.  Jews for Jesus events, for example, (whose founder Palin’s hometown church hosted 2 weeks ago) in small towns only reinforces the prejudices of folks who’ve never met a Catholic, let a lone a Jew. Sorry, there’s is much wrong with the dream of global liberal meritocracy and Friedman’s WORLD IS FLAT, but an uncritical turn to small town values ain’t gonna cut it.

My preference: let cosmopolitanism and particularity battle it out in spirited though courteous opposition in each generation.  Yet this is harder than it sounds, and perhaps bloody. Teen motherhood, for example, is tricky as each of us will put our ideals and baggage onto our image of Palin’s daughter.  Abstinence only and the “Culture of Life” vs. giving teens reproductive “choice”, sex ed and contraceptives are incompatible worldviews.  We cannot agree even on how to reduce the number of abortions, sorry Barack.  Some say reviving the culture war is good for the McCain ticket. Is it what I asked for?


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