Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By Thomas Frank
The Tilting Yard at The Wall Street Journal
When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced her resignation two weeks ago it was after a series of strange, petty bouts with her detractors. Many "frivolous ethics violations" had been alleged against her, she noted. David Letterman had told an ugly joke about her daughter. A blogger had posted something that was probably not true. Someone had photoshopped a radio talker's face onto a picture of her baby -- a "malicious desecration" of the image, in the words of Ms. Palin's spokeswoman.
Team Palin got duly indignant at each of these. They took special, detailed offense. They issued statements magnifying their wounds. And, finally, the governor resigned her office, a good woman cruelly wronged.
The culture's fantastically unfair treatment of middle Americans is the main lesson that many will no doubt take away from Ms. Palin's time in the national spotlight. In fact, it may be the only lesson. We don't really know where the former vice presidential candidate stands on most issues. We know only that she is constantly being maligned, that when we turn on the TV and see her fair face beaming, we are about to hear that some liberal someone has slurred this noble lady yet again.
Indeed, if political figures stand for ideas, victimization is what Ms. Palin is all about. It is her brand, her myth. Ronald Reagan stood tall. John McCain was about service. Barack Obama has hope. Sarah Palin is a collector of grievances. She runs for high office by griping.
This is no small thing, mind you. The piling-up of petty complaints is an important aspect of conservative movement culture. For those who believe that American life consists of the trampling of Middle America by the "elites" -- that our culture is one big insult to the pious and the patriotic and the traditional -- Sarah Palin's long list of unfair and disrespectful treatment is one of her most attractive features. Like Oliver North, Robert Bork, and Clarence Thomas, she is known not for her ideas but as a martyr, a symbol of the culture-war crimes of the left....(Remainder.)