Peggy Noonan and the Republican apparatchiks are scared. Of Sarah Palin. They should be.
In recent days, Noonan and her ilk have taken to criticizing Palin, and often for the same reasons we do. At least superficially. Which is and always has been the only level on which the Peggy Noonans of the world operate. And it's fascinating to watch the increasing terror of the Republican elites, because the threat of Palin is a monster of their own making. Palin is not the monster; the power she holds over the grassroots conservative movement is.
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.
In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.
Of course, what horrifies the hideous Noonan is not Palin's hideousness, it's that Palin has become the face of the Republican Party. And Palin has become the face of the Republican Party because the hideous Noonan helped make such hideousness acceptable. By excusing and enabling the hideous George W. Bush. By writing speeches for the hideous Ronald Reagan. The stupidity of the politicians themselves was covered up, excused, and even turned into a political asset. The consummate child of privilege, Bush, was transmogrified into a folksy dolt-next-door. He was a "rancher" who apparently never even learned to ride a horse! But, as Blue Texan makes clear, Noonan herself played right along, pretending the ultimate elitist Bush was a man of the people, pretending his lack of intellect or intellectual curiosity was somehow laudable, pretending that she herself gives a whit about anyone living outside her own income bracket or social circle. Had it not become possible for someone as manifestly unqualified and incapable as George W. Bush to become president, it would not now be possible for Sarah Palin to be taken seriously as a national political figure. Had Bush been dismissed as the caricature he was, no one outside of Alaska would know Sarah Palin's name.
John McCain is singularly responsible for having put Palin on the national stage. That was and will remain his most revealing legacy. But even though Peggy Noonan and her ilk never warmed to Palin, they are every bit as responsible for having created the conditions that made possible Palin's ascendancy within the conservative movement. Reagan elevated the theocrats, although he didn't aggressively pursue their agenda. Both Bushes tried to use them, and W may even have shared their beliefs, but neither was going to sacrifice their political prospects on issues that weren't widely popular. But Palin would, if given the chance. She's the real deal. The extremists' extremist, and just ignorant enough to believe what to the Noonans was just a game. Palin is an outsider. She is anti-intellectual, both in capacity and temperament. She wasn't born to the party's elite, and she is not their creation. And she can't tell the difference between her party's simplistic propaganda and actual verifiable reality. Because, to her, there is no difference!
The Noonans believed they could play their game, cynically manipulate the people who are uneducated, undereducated, or incapable of being educated, and continue to control both their party and the functions of government. They lost the latter, and now they are losing the former. The base of their party finally has taken over, and if Palin doesn't get what she believes her higher calling is due, she seems very willing to leave the party and to take its base with her. That would be the split that would end the Republican Party, once and for all. And I certainly support Palin in her efforts! Because the Republicans fooled too many of the people too much of the time, but with Sarah Palin center stage, everyone now has a chance to see clearly that for which the Republican Party does and doesn't truly stand. Palin is the Republican Party's dare: put up or shut up! Either way, the Republicans lose. Peggy Noonan is frightened. She should be.