Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party’s latest winning candidate for political office is touted as a Sarah Palin look-a-like. Though the resemblance is not exact, it’s pretty close, brunette, attractive, broad smile, friendly demeanor, seemingly approachable, self-described reps for soccer moms around the country. I’m not a teetotaler or a Republican, I usually vote Democrat. But being a woman, I am intrigued by this latest brand of female politician. What member of our gender wouldn’t be. After all, Palin and O’Donnell claim to represent us ordinary people. While my inclination is more toward women like Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama because of their experiences and views, sitting down to coffee with these two wouldn’t feel natural or comfortable, but neither would I feel comfortable sipping tea with O’Donnell or Palin.
What I find interesting about the recent turn of political events is how it might affect Palin’s decision to run for president. At coffee one day some time ago, one of the ladies from exercise class pooh-poohed the idea that Palin would ever be considered a serious candidate. I wasn’t so sure; I’m still not. While she may not answer questions in the manner to which we are accustomed, she connects with ordinary people who probably can’t offer glib answers either. I know. I may have a gift for writing, but I can get tongue-tied when speaking, especially when defending an opinion.
My thoughts are that Palin may be using these next couple of years to build a grass-roots political base, from which she’ll launch her candidacy. The Tea Party may be at the forefront of this reality. Obama’s election was probably the catalyst for this seismic political shift to the other extreme. Just as a black, Democratic president captured the imagination of millions, appealing to the emotions of many who cast votes in his favor; Palin is finding fans among those disenchanted with Obama’s perceived expansion of big government. Conservatives underestimated the possibility of a black president; opponents may be too quick in dismissing Palin as a serious contender.
The recent Vanity Fair issue chronicles a behind-the-scenes look, “Sarah Palin, Smears, Lies, and Big Speaking Fees: Inside Sarah Palin, Inc.” by Michael Joseph Gross. In a 40 minute speech in Independence, Missouri, Palin’s unfettered language connected with the audience. “They talk down to us. Especially here in the heartland. Oh, man. They think that, if we were just smart enough, we’d be able to understand their policies. And I so want to tell ’em, and I do tell ’em, Oh, we’re plenty smart, oh yeah–we know what’s goin’ on. And we don’t like what’s goin’ on. And we’re not gonna let them tell us to sit down and shut up.” Voicing her views as though speaking for them, her listeners “believe she is just like them, and this conviction seems to satisfy their curiosity about the objective facts of her life.” Among others interviewed by journalist Gross was Colleen Cottle, “matriarch of one of Wasilla’s oldest families, and who served on the city council when Palin was mayor. She says she and her husband, Rodney, will pay a price for speaking candidly about Palin. Their son is one of Todd Palin’s best friends. ‘But it is time for people to start telling the truth,’ Colleen says. She describes the frustrations of trying to do city business with a mayor who had no attention span–with Sarah it was always ‘What’s the flavor of the day?’; who was unable to take part meaningfully in conversations about budgets because she ‘does not understand math or accounting–she only knows buzzwords, like ‘balanced budget’; and who clocked out after four hours on most days, delegating her duties to an aide–‘but he’ll never talk to you, because he has a state job and doesn’t want to lose it.’ This type of conversation is repeated so often that Wasilla starts to feel like something from The Twilight Zone or a Shirley Jackson short story–a place populated entirely by abuse survivors.”
In years past when I was frustrated with how men governed, I’d share my feeling that moms should be in charge. For centuries we have been the primary caretakers, instilling our children with values. But they are not only future citizens, they are literally of our flesh, making their lives more cherished than our own. I surmised that mothers would wield power in the best interests of families, where I felt men reveled in having power, period. Palin may have altered my thinking.
“Why are you pretending to be something you’re not? That is the question so many Alaskans have asked this year as they’ve watched Sarah Palin travel the nation. According to almost everyone who has ever known her, including those who have seen the darkest of her dark side, Sarah Palin has a great gift for making people feel good about themselves. Her knack for remembering names and faces and the details of her interactions with people–and for seeming to be present to the person in front of her–constitute an extraordinary power of engagement. Now she is using that power in a fundamentally different way. In part she is using it in the service of her own ambitions. …Those who once felt close to Palin have followed her public transformation with a confused range of emotions. The common denominator is sadness. ‘People who loved Sarah Palin are disappointed,’ said one woman in Wasilla, ‘because they found out that Sarah Palin loves Sarah Palin most of all.’ ”
I’ve decided that the best candidate is not determined by gender, but by what I feel he or she can do to improve the plight of our country. I’m sure everyone feels the same way, and so we’ll all vote according to our individual consciences, which is as it should be. But I still wonder what Palin will do in 2012, and if she’ll be a force with which to be reckoned.
tea party wins, foretelling the future?…hugmamma.