Sarah Palin is as polarizing a figure in American politics as one could imagine. Adored and championed by many conservatives, elderly and rural folk; reviled and denigrated by many liberals, progressives and intellectuals.
Mrs. Palin is in the news again due to her inappropriate use of the term “blood libel” in a response she made to critics who held her rhetoric partially to blame for the recent massacre in Tucson, Ariz. which severely wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, once targeted for removal from office by Palin.
Palin was rightfully peeved to be held in any way accountable for the violent actions of a mentally disturbed young man
However, from my vantage point as a (hopefully) unbiased outsider, what fascinates me the most about ex-Governor Palin – and the American body politic as a whole – are the mixed messages and misplaced alliances that are inherent in this country.
For one thing, Sarah Palin will probably never become President of the U.S. because she does not have an Ivy League education.
In fact, the last President to lack such an elite degree was Ronald Reagan – but he was kind of an exception. He already had wide name recognition as a Hollywood actor and even then he had to spend years building his political career in California, struggling long and hard to make it to the White House. Reagan was almost a septuagenarian when he first assumed office.
Otherwise, consider the four most recent occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.: Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard); George W. Bush (Yale); Bill Clinton (Yale, Oxford); and George H.W. Bush (Yale).
What is striking about this list is that the two Democrats were born in modest circumstances and still attained the coveted Ivy League degrees – seemingly, a prerequisite to a career in high political office.
Moreover, two other “near-miss” Presidents (Hilary Clinton and Al Gore) also boast Ivy League pedigrees.
However, Sarah Palin comes from a far different background – the child of schoolteachers in remote Alaska, former beauty queen, sportscaster, moose-hunter and one who attended a plethora of no-name, obscure colleges in the Northwest and Hawaii.
No ivy in sight.
It is precisely because of her modest upbringing and “ordinariness” (i.e. lack of pretension and/or urban sophistication) that attracts Palin’s supporters and repels her detractors.
While she deserves to be criticized for her ill-advised “blood libel” comment, a lot of the other criticism she has faced seem rather excessive and unfair.
There are, of course, members of her own Republican Party who also ridicule her and believe she is unfit to hold public office. These same Republicans are also likely to berate the Tea Party as “extremists” and not reflective of the GOP’s true philosophy.
Part of their dislike of Palin, I believe, arises from the fact that she did not attend a prestigious university and is, therefore, “unqualified” to run for President. Democrats are, naturally, almost unanimous in their hostility towards her.
And this points to the growing class divide in this country irrespective of political affiliation.
We may never again see an American President who did not attend the hallowed halls of the elite universities. I’m not really sure if that represents progress or not.