Sep 6, 2008

David Brooks On Palin

Writing in today's New York Times David Brooks has done an analysis of the direction in which McCain is trying to take the Republican Party. This is his commentary on Palin

So McCain was pulled back. But he refused to stay there and pressed ahead by picking Sarah Palin. At first, this seemed like the fresh break he needed. Her career in Alaska has been nibbled on the edges, but the key fact is this: When the testing time came, she quit her government job, put her career on the line and took on the corrupt establishment of her own party.
But again, the forces of the past pulled McCain back. Parts of the press pack elevated Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. A controversy over human reproduction brought back the old culture wars and the mommy wars. Battle lines formed, as in the days of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, and everyone took their pre-assigned roles.
Millions declared themselves qualified to judge her a bad mother, while others held her up as the model of evangelical virtue. And, of course, the whole thing became enmeshed in the clich├ęs of red-blue: the supposed conflict between the condescending media elites and the gun-owning trailer trash, between abortion-rights urban women with one kid and anti-abortion rural women with five.
For 36 hours, the gravitational pull of past resentments dominated the media-culture war complex. And from the convention podium the past and the future fought to a draw. On the one hand, Joe Lieberman went up there and praised Bill Clinton, giving a glimpse of what a less partisan political future might look like. On the other, there was Mitt Romney, who delivered a cynical, extreme caricature of old-line Republicanism.
The convention thus sat on a knife-edge. And then Palin walked onstage. She gave a tough vice presidential speech, with maybe a few more jabs than necessary. Still it was stupendous to see a young woman emerge from nowhere to give a smart and assertive speech.
And what was most impressive was her speech’s freshness. Her words flowed directly from her life experience, her poise and mannerisms from her town and its conversations. She left behind most of the standard tropes of Republican rhetoric (compare her text to the others) and skated over abortion and the social issues. There wasn’t even any tired, old Reagan nostalgia.
Instead, her language resonated more of supermarket aisle than the megachurch pulpit. More than the men on the tickets, she embodies the spirit of the moment: impatient, fed up, tough-minded, but ironical. Even in attack, she projected the cheerfulness of someone confident about the future.
In those 40 minutes, the forces of reform Republicanism took control, at least for a time. Republicans started talking about Palin, Bobby Jindal and a brighter future for their party.