In The Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry writes:
I assigned Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue in my course on women in contemporary US media and politics. I spent the week walking around town, riding the train and dashing through airports with the book tucked under my arm. “Isn’t she awesome?” gushed a waitress in a New Jersey restaurant. My seatmate on a flight to Louisiana smiled knowingly and whipped out her copy of Decision Points. On my way to California a guy in a University of Alaska sweatshirt nearly threw himself across the aisle to chat with me. It was a camaraderie with perfect strangers that I once evoked by wearing my Obama sweatshirt.
I expected my Princeton students—mostly young women, self-identified as liberal and feminist and actively engaged in local and national politics—to be critical of Palin. But although they found her authorial voice irritatingly self-assured and disagreed with her policy conclusions, they also found her surprisingly compelling. They thoughtfully drew parallels between her nontraditional (dare I say mavericky?) career choices and those of Hillary Clinton, whose Living History we read the same week.
I pushed my personal Palin test one step further by watching Sarah Palin’s Alaska with my 8-year-old daughter. My kid’s dislike of Palin is pure, instinctive and content-free. It’s not as though she has well-formed policy positions; she just knows that Palin was an opponent to be vanquished. Born in Hyde Park, my daughter learned to read “Obama” as her first word, because it was plastered on signs all over our neighborhood in 2004. My kid accompanied me to campaign events throughout 2008 and has heard many kitchen table commentaries railing against Palin and the Tea Party. But twenty minutes into the first episode, she was transfixed. She loved watching the baby bears. She was jealous that Palin had a studio in her house: “Mom, can’t you get one from MSNBC?” She cracked up with hand-clapping hysteria as the mountain-scaling Palin shouted, “I was never a gymnast or a cheerleader!” At the end my kid declared, “I know we don’t agree with her, but her life sure is interesting.”
Andrew Sullivan believes America won’t buy Palinism and in response to her Facebook mockery of Obama gaffes says: “A simple respect for the office she seeks would not reflect itself in these increasingly callow, sarcastic, cheap jibes at a sitting president.”
Really? Whoever is Obama’s opponent in 2012, I doubt they’ll refrain from taking cheap jibes at this president.
The “misunderstimation” of Palin has, I suspect, much more to do with the fact that those who view her with contempt have a hard time accepting the idea that they live in a country where she could be popular.