"We don't like this fundamental transformation, and we're going to do something about it." With that line, in a savvy "Mama Grizzly" video recently posted on her Facebook page, Sarah Palin may have captured not only the political mood of much of the country, but also nailed why women seem prone to making tea and political hay this year.
Good advertising is not everything in politics, but it sure doesn't hurt. Kellyanne Conway, a prominent pollster and CEO, says that Palin "is calling for a 'Moms' Mobilization' to encourage millions of women like her to tell Washington to tighten its belt the way they have ... Palin is a good messenger for this mobilization because she is one of them. They may like her -- or not -- but they are LIKE her: a working mom with no Ivy League degree, who thinks Washington's 'new math' does not add up."
Many political observers thought Palin's video was the opening salvo -- or, at least trailer -- in the media star's 2012 presidential campaign. When, days later, her PAC issued impressive second-quarter fundraising results, that speculation only continued. But to focus on Palin is to underestimate what's going on in American politics.
It's not just Palin or even the scads of other attractive woman who are running for office as Republicans; this "year of conservative women" is manifesting itself in a big way in the Tea Party movement. The Sam Adams Alliance, which has done a series of surveys on people who identify themselves as Tea Partiers, reports that at least 45 percent of Tea Party leaders are women, some of whom never had a career outside the home but now feel the need to organize their communities. Quinnipiac similarly has found 44 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters to be women.
Sam Adams' Anne Sorock says that she's seen women "empowered through the Tea Parties." It's the kind of thing the women's movement would like if the women's movement weren't really more about liberal politics than representing females in America.
Women may naturally be the first to pull us back from this brink, to encourage a back-to-basics approach toward government and society. "Attitudes about risk may partially account for their prominence in the movement," John J. Pitney Jr., professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, offers. "Many studies suggest that women tend to be more risk-averse than men ... A liberal administration is restructuring health care and running the federal debt up to the stratosphere -- which a lot of people regard as scary and risky."
Conway agrees: "It is easy to show how the past 18 months have been a radical departure from common sense and the solutions women tell pollsters they favor. Plus, Obama's priority list does not match their own. They rejected health care; he signed it into law. They say jobs and the economy should be the top focus; his actions have made things worse."
And, while conservative women or women in Republican politics are not a new phenomenon, what's especially remarkable right now is that outside parties are noticing this new feminine pull and are looking to center-right politics. These independent outsiders appear on the covers of magazines and are the subject of prime-time debates.
Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, believes that this is only a beginning and this "year of the conservative women" meme is a real potential growth opportunity for the Republican Party: "I think there is a genuine chance to change the face of the GOP and reach an entire generation of women. Palin was the booster rocket."
This might not quite be Elizabeth Dole's cup of tea. Palin's rise signals, according to Reed, "a generational change" in the GOP "to a younger, feistier, post-feminist, Tea Party-style woman." And he adds that so many "are Christian, conservative feminists ... if that is not an oxymoron."
It's not an oxymoron at all. It's one that has been at the heart of so many American family and religious lives. And now that the cultural upheaval that has been creeping into our lives since the 1960s is fundamentally threatening our national identity, the natural protective instincts of women are kicking in, in an undeniable way.
And here, it may be best to let men have the last word.
John Paul II called it the "feminine genius." Alexis de Tocqueville chivalrously observed it in us: "If anyone asks me what I think the chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity and growing power of this nation, I should answer that it is due to the superiority of their women."
The rise of the mama grizzlies hardly spells the "end of men," Claremont's Pitney emphasizes, knowing that one prominent magazine recently declared just that. It's simply confirmation, once again, of the complementarily of the sexes and the gifts each one brings to the table, essential even for politics.
Maybe it is all about sex, after all. Just not in the way the sexual revolution told us.