Sarah Palin works fast. She instantly became the object of the kind of partisan hatred that most politicians can raise only after prosecuting an unpopular war and lying about their misconduct in office (Nixon), after making sanctimonious dishonesty an art form and getting caught in flagrante with an intern (Clinton), and after winning a disputed election and botching a foreign occupation (Bush).
Palin-hatred is an artifact of who she is rather than anything she's done. Joe Biden famously rose from the working class to the U.S. Senate. Palin became governor of Alaska, but never left the working class -- with her old-fashioned beehive hairdo and librarian eyeglasses, with a husband who is a commercial fisherman and works on a North Shore oil field, and with her hobbies of fishing and hunting.
As such, she's the object of the cultural disdain of a left that loves the working class in theory, but is mystified or offended by its lifestyle and conservative values in reality. If there's ever been an exemplar of the rural America that, in Barack Obama's telling, "bitterly" clings to its guns and religion, it's Sarah Palin.
It's her misfortune to be a pioneer with the wrong ideology. So much bile was directed at Clarence Thomas because he was the "wrong" kind of black man. Pro-life, pro-gun and a down-the-line, if populist, conservative, Palin is a traitor to her gender and thus encounters the sort of fury always directed at apostates.
A popular liberal talk-radio host calls her a "bimbo," a Washington Post columnist compares her to Caligula's horse, and the left-wing blogosphere goes on a demented jag about how her fifth son, Trig, is really the son of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. The lunacy forced the Palins to issue a statement that Bristol is pregnant, setting off a feeding frenzy from the same press that went out of its way to protect the privacy of John Edwards.
In a less-poisonous atmosphere, Palin might have diminished the intensity of the "mommy wars." Here were traditionalist conservatives hailing a very busy working mom with five kids, including a handicapped 4-month-old. But the same feminists who ordinarily dismiss stay-at-home moms as benighted betrayers of the sisterhood now question whether Palin can juggle her family and political responsibilities. Washington doyenne Sally Quinn worries about putting "the mother of young children in a job outside the home that will demand so much of her time and energy."