Camille Paglia gets it mostly right when she sizes up Sarah Palin as a new feminist role model. (I’ll part company on the favorable comparison with Madonna.) And her take on Obama, the Palin maneuver, and the media is pretty much spot on:
What in the world possessed the Obama campaign to let their guy wander like a dazed lamb into a snake pit of religious inquisition like Rick Warren’s public forum last month at his Saddleback Church in California? That shambles of a performance — where a surprisingly unprepared Obama met the inevitable question about abortion with shockingly curt glibness — began his alarming slide.
. . .
Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy — one of the most stunning surprises that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama’s triumph of the night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football — or one of the great light-saber duels in “Star Wars.” . . . This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.
And she is right that the media did its part:
Over the Labor Day weekend, with most of the big enchiladas of the major media on vacation, the vacuum was filled with a hallucinatory hurricane in the leftist blogosphere, which unleashed a grotesquely lurid series of allegations, fantasies, half-truths and outright lies about Palin. What a tacky low in American politics — which has already caused a backlash that could damage Obama’s campaign. When liberals come off as childish, raving loonies, the right wing gains. I am still waiting for substantive evidence that Sarah Palin is a dangerous extremist. I am perfectly willing to be convinced, but right now, she seems to be merely an optimistic pragmatist like Ronald Reagan, someone who pays lip service to religious piety without being in the least wedded to it. I don’t see her arrival as portending the end of civil liberties or life as we know it.
Paglia gets to the heart of why Palin has set off such a frenzy: she is redefining the model of a successful female poltician. Before her, women in high office consisted of victim-mongering liberals and country-club Republican Congresswoman and Senators, and a stray cabinet position or two. And now we have something utterly different: a “new style of muscular American feminism.”
Whether McCain-Palin wins or not, a lot of people have a different vision of what a powerful female politician can look and sound like–somewhat like themselves and their neighbors. No wonder tens of thousands of people are turning out. They want a glimpse of what the future of conservatism, the Republican Party, and maybe even feminism will look like.