The XX Factor

Don’t Misunderestimate Palin

I agree, Emily B ., that this is a very effective ad. It perfectly encapsulates Palin’s strengths and weaknesses. She evokes feelings- powerful feelings-but she avoids substance. However, is this so different from the greatest moments of Obama’s presidential campaign? People were carried along by the emotive power of “Yes, we can” and “We are the change we’ve been waiting for,” not, say, “There will be a high risk pool with subsidies available for people with pre-existing conditions who cannot get health insurance from their employer.” The problem with Palin is that she only does feeling. During her vice presidential run she showed she had little grasp of the issues, and now she’s making so much money and getting so much acclaim that she doesn’t have the incentive-and probably not the capacity-to grapple with policy.

But if she’s not going to actually run for office, that doesn’t matter. She works as a political energizer. What’s startling is how Palin fully embraces her femaleness-her beauty, her sexuality, her Mama Grizzly-ness. We’re used to female politicians playing up their gender-neutral competence. But there is Palin making a direct appeal to women, confident that the men who love her won’t be turned off by this. I also agree, Abby , that her message that Democrats want to try to run your lives and saddle your kids with crushing debt comes through very clearly without having to say it. And Democrats who dismiss her do so at their own peril.

Photograph of Sarah Palin courtesy of AFP.