Politics & Policy

She Turned the World on with Her Smile

Palin takes the Convention.

St. Paul — She’s gonna make it after all.

Considering the location of the Republican convention, the theme song had already been written for Sarah Palin’s vice presidential campaign. It comes from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, based in the Twin Cities.

“Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Well, it’s you, girl, and you should know it; with each glance and every little movement, you show it. Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can have a town, why don’t you take it? You’re gonna make it after all.”

With the announcement of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, the Republican party transformed overnight from a lackluster, demoralized group of people largely willing to vote for McCain out of a lack of alternatives, to an eager and energized movement, ready to donate their time, money, and expertise. In the course of a few days, people who felt like they didn’t have a stake in the election became enthusiastically engaged. At one pro-life event here, a woman announced, “I’m really voting for Palin, not McCain.” There’s something about Palin that connects with and comforts members of the Right, while threatening those on the Left.

In the days after McCain’s pick became public, we saw left-wing blogs write salacious and unsubstantiated claims about Palin and her family. These digital scandalmongers even won a victory of sorts, when the Palins announced, through the McCain campaign, the pregnancy of their unwed teenage daughter. The Left evinced no small satisfaction from their time wallowing in the mud. As lurid, tabloid-ready stories issued forth, conservatives both rushed to defend Palin and got a little nervous. Had she been vetted properly? Could there be other, more dire skeletons lurking?

Creeping dread began to dampen the initial enthusiasm for the Alaskan governor. There were too many growing distractions, perhaps the biggest being the question of experience. McCain had previously said a vice president should be ready to assume the presidency from the get-go. Doubt and uncertainty grew.

But then on Wednesday night, Palin spoke.

Not only did she show the depth of her moral character, she demonstrated an aptitude for policy, both foreign and domestic. Most importantly, she exhibited a love of country, and a respect and support for military service. She came across as an everywoman. A mom who wanted to do her part at home and in the world — an instinct that led her into politics, and ultimately onto the podium of the Xcel Center as John McCain’s Number Two.

By the time she wrapped up her acceptance speech, the skepticism had vanished, and the dominant reaction now seems to be happiness and relief at McCain’s sagacious choice.

And for once, skeptics can’t cry tokenism. Commentators who compare Palin to George Bush’s gender-based, experience-blind pick for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, couldn’t be more off-base. One of Palin’s positives for McCain may have been her lack of a Y chromosome, but she’s also got everything else — including the fighting spirit to cross swords with a self-proclaimed scrapper, Joe Biden. Palin has the humor and winsome charm to hold an audience, the real-world wisdom to persuade, and the compassion to inspire — not to mention the executive experience that no one on either ticket can claim. Putting a play on an Obama phrase, conservatives have been saying, “She is the one we have been waiting for.” Comparisons to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are flying — all a tad premature, but it’s a good thing just the same.

What excites conservatives about Palin angers the Left. She’s an attractive (“The hottest governor from the coolest state,” one pin making the convention-hall rounds announced), conservative, pro-life, happy warrior who won’t play victim even when she and her family are attacked by a supposedly objective media. She threatens a dying feminist movement that thrives on victimization. With a gun in hand, ready to make moose burgers or caribou stew, Palin is not their kinda girl. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

© 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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