Sarah Palin has become a giant inkblot test in American politics.
This is neither her fault nor her virtue.
I cannot help but admire Gov. Palin's resolute capacity to remain herself -- confident, eloquent, relentlessly optimistic -- in the face of a national campaign of hate and ridicule the likes of which I cannot recall seeing. Ever.
Gov. Palin's appearance on "Saturday Night Live" this week was remarkably good-humored under the circumstances. But Sarah Palin has, whether she likes it or not, transcended the status of an actual human being to become a symbol in American politics and culture.
A symbol of what, exactly, is still being contested.
Sarah Palin means different things to different people. "I'd rather be a symbol of sex than a lot of other things people have symbols for," Marilyn Monroe once said. And the Democrats' insane hatred of Gov. Palin has to do with the way she rebuts their deepest assumptions -- that all that is young, cool, beautiful, hip and groundbreaking must advance the cause of abortion rights, gay marriage and liberal progressivism. How dare a woman be young, attractive, glass-ceiling-shattering -- and conservative! So they have responded in the crudest fashion, with relentless personal invective and ridicule.
The New Republic suggests that Gov. Palin is seething with resentment at her treatment by the urbane best and brightest of Wasilla. As Sam Schulman noted in this week's Standard, "(Norm) Scheiber spoke to various people from Gov. Palin's past, all of whom have two things in common: Every one of them is smarter than Palin and none of them has been heard of since their encounter with her."
But Gov. Palin has also become a symbol of discontent in certain intellectual quarters on the right. David Brooks, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, George Will and the latest, the beloved Peggy Noonan -- sweetheart of Reagan conservatives -- have joined a chorus of concern about Gov. Palin.
Substantively, these critiques of her leave me cold. Why?
I acknowledge that people will read and respond to Gov. Palin and her achievements differently. It is quite reasonable to suggest she lacks the resume expected of a presidential candidate, although two terms as governor of Arkansas for Bill Clinton and one term as governor of Georgia for Jimmy Carter were enough to insulate these men from any similar critique.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.