"I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level."
-- William F. Buckley
Take a listen.
The lines below from several recent attacks on Sarah Palin are as revealing as they are memorable.
Here's a sample:
* South Carolina Democratic Chairwoman Carol Fowler: John McCain has chosen a running mate "whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion."
* Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn: "My first reaction was shock. Then anger. John McCain chose a running mate simply because she is a woman and one who appealed to the Republican's conservative evangelical base. McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical and calculated move....I find it insulting to women, to the Republican party, and to the country.
* Actor Matt Damon: "I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago, that's an important...I want to know that. I really do. Because she's going to have the nuclear codes. I want to know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago. Or if she banned books or tried to ban books. We can't have that."
* Daily Kos blogger: "There are quite a number of extremely troubling links between Sarah Palin and neopentecostal dominionists -- enough that, in truth, she may be ultimately as much of a 'dream candidate' for the dominionist movement as Mike Huckabee was. Even worse, she's running in a manner that has been frighteningly successful for dominionist groups since the early 80's -- specifically, as a 'stealth candidate.'"
* MoveOn.org: "So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier...xxxx"
* Mark Benjamin, Salon.com: "With a disdain for science that alarms wildlife experts, Sarah Palin continues to promote Alaska's policy to gun down wolves from planes."
* Andrew Sullivan, the Atlantic: John McCain "threw caution to the wind and with no vetting whatsoever, picked a woman who, by her decision to endure her own eight-month pregnancy of a Down Syndrome child in public, that he was going to reignite the culture war as a last stand against Obama. That's all that is happening right now: a massive bump in the enthusiasm of the Christianist base."
* Cindra Wilson, Salon.com: "Sarah Palin is a bit comical, like one of those cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms. What her Down syndrome baby and pregnant teenage daughter unequivocally prove, however, is that her most beloved child is the antiabortion platform that ensures her own political ambitions with the conservative right."
ALL OF THE ABOVE and so much more (there isn't room for the all the gallons of vitriol being tossed in Governor Palin's direction by the now Really VERY Angry Left) can be boiled down to the simple observation above made decades ago by Mr. Buckley (who had an assist in the thought from his friend and later National Review colleague, Yale Professor Willmoore Kendall).
This election is now being fought openly between, as Whittaker Chambers once described the same fight in a different era, "those who reject and those who worship God." Between those who believe "if man's mind is the decisive force in the world, what need is there for God?" -- and America's own Joan of Arc, Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin not only believes in God, she belongs, to the horror of her liberal critics, to the Assemblies of God, an evangelical church. For many liberals this is the equivalent of The Making of the President meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Worse she lives out in practice what Dr. Josh Moody, the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven, calls, in his book by the same title, The God-Centered Life. Which is to say, in the now abruptly famous case of her Down syndrome son Trig, Palin knowingly refused to opt for an abortion. Nor did she respond to the news of her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy with anything other than loving acceptance of a new life and encouragement of marriage. Twice over in two now ongoing and very public situations, Sarah Palin has focused on the love of God rather than herself. To those who have vested their life and career comfortably believing there is little need for God because what of what rolls around aimlessly in their heads and those of their like-minded friends at any given moment, to those who view government and the power of the state as an object of worship, this is taken as a serious, gut-level threat. A threat to the existence of their own very carefully structured non-religious secular value system.
They may say they are opposing Sarah Palin. What they really want to defeat is the idea of God.
The Governor also quite vibrantly exemplifies something else, a something else that rattles the American left to its very core. She is indeed a feminist. In the words of Obama supporter and feminist Camille Paglia, Palin represents "an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day [of her selection by McCain], she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment."
This is another way of saying that Palin terrifies the left precisely because her election to the vice-presidency -- and potential later elevation to the presidency -- would not simply shatter the glass ceiling but redefine feminism itself as the glass explodes. Gone for good would be the image of the pant-suited, pro-abortion, secular-centered Powerful Woman. In her place would be a skirt-wearing, vibrantly pro-life, God-centered woman who is neither afraid of her own femininity or, importantly, ashamed of her working class roots and the religious values that come with them. She loves her husband, is thrilled by her kids and is not in the least intimidated by the pretensions of those who hilariously presume to be her betters, whether that be intellectually, socially or politically. Most dramatically, she enthusiastically loves and worships God.
THE LIBERALS WHO have gone on record with the kind of quotes listed above are relentlessly secular. Which is to say, in the struggle that William F. Buckley noted so many years ago, were a line to be drawn in the sand they would instinctively jump to the atheist/collectivist side of the line, gaping in horror at the crowd of people they believe to be the Christian/religious/individualist primitives standing on the other side.
Come to think of it, a line has been drawn, and it isn't in the sand. The line comes by a variety of different names. Roe v. Wade, abortion and partial-birth abortion, same-sex marriage, military service, American exceptionalism, pacifism, isolationism, community organizing and entrepreneurship are just a few of the ways this line is drawn. It is reflected daily in cultural choices: talk radio over NPR, hockey or windsurfing, Fox over NBC, Reese Witherspoon in the hugely successful Legally Blonde instead of Reese Witherspoon in the bomb that was Rendition.
Since the advent of the Culture War conservatives have known instinctively that there are millions of American women who share Sarah Palin's views and values. As no less than Geraldine Ferraro has noted, her own 1984 rallies as the first woman on a Democratic ticket drew lots of enthusiastic women. But come election day the majority of women voted for Ronald Reagan. The ranks of the Right, from the trenches of the Republican Party and the conservative movement to the so-called Religious Right to the world of business to the waitress in the local diner have always been filled with Right Thinking women. Yet it has been, for the most part, liberal women who have captured the headlines. From Gloria Steinem to Hillary to a seemingly endless parade of media stars, the message was always that "woman equals liberal." Worse, it defined "woman" as economically well-to-do professionals with a fistful of graduate degrees all obtained from some elite East or Left coast university. It was a massive untruth, a political conceit that liberal politicians in particular came to believe at their own eventual peril.
Sarah Palin's threat to the left is that she has shattered more than one glass ceiling. She has taken a shotgun to the glass ceiling that kept God-fearing, child-rearing, gun-owning, non-Ivy League, pro-life, working women from so visibly rising to the top rungs of American society. This is why the vitriol that pours forth to be dumped over her political head. Palin is a personal threat to the very core image liberal Democrats have of women, of feminism itself. The idea that Hillary Clinton can work her much proclaimed 35 years for liberal feminist causes only to find at the last moment that the first woman to walk through the doors of the White House on her own is a wildly popular conservative Christian hockey mother of five from Alaska who got elected on her own without benefit of marriage to another liberal politician -- is something that will take Clinton and her immediate circle of liberal feminist friends more than a shot and a beer to recover from.
THERE'S SOMETHING ELSE at work here as well. Let us not leave out of the Palin phenomenon the real world masculinity of the "First Dude," Palin's husband Todd. This is a guy who works with his hands as a "sloper" in the oil business and as a commercial fisherman. A union member not of, say, the elite Writers Guild but the gritty United Steelworkers. He is a champion snowmobiler...er...snowmachiner (as they say in Alaska.) Matt Damon is a man's man -- in the movies. Andrew Sullivan couldn't and presumably wouldn't carry Todd Palin's backpack even if it were filled with every elite magazine for which Sullivan writes. Glutted with Hollywood pate' Al Gore would have a coronary trying to keep up with Palin, who probably wouldn't be bringing along any seriously good wine as he races through the backwoods. Once off the basketball court, Obama would be clueless on snowshoes with a gun and a charging moose. And Keith Olbermann? Beyond laughter at the image, enough said. The combination here -- the womanly woman who unabashedly worships God at the same time she's a chief executive and a Mom AND has a hot time with the working man's man who has fathered her five kids -- is truly terrifying for the world of non-churchgoing metrosexuals for whom the idea of "God" means Simon Cowell.
Make no mistake. The vociferous attacks on Sarah Palin -- on her views of abortion, family, work, the environment, science, the role of women and all the rest -- are about much, much more than they seem. A lot of them aren't even about Sarah Palin at all.
Their real target doesn't even have His name on the ballot.
Jeffrey Lord is an author and former Reagan White House political director. He writes from Pennsylvania.
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