Sarah Palin has made me sad. That’s something that I never thought would happen, particularly since I made a small cottage industry of defending her against pretentious liberals, particularly pretentious liberal women who know how to spell “fetus” and “choice” and a lot of words that only have four letters in them.
In fact, I still like her more than most of the ladies who defend Planned Parenthood against charges of baby vivisection, and I most definitely like her more than Hillary Clinton, who would probably respond, “What difference does it make?”
But I have gotten to the point where I’m no longer willing to sit quietly while she does something that makes my blood boil simply because she’s a conservative, pro-life woman who manages to drive the progressive crazy. Yes, it’s worth a smile and a high-five every time some tight-mouthed, pretentious feminist splutters in apoplexy about “Caribou Barbie.” I can’t deny that watching their compliant male counterparts insult Palin makes me even more determined to keep my nephew away from these Stepford Husbands, because God forbid he’d turn into one of those brainwashed idiots who doesn’t think he’s entitled to weigh in on whether his son or daughter will be born.
For years, Sarah’s mere existence was a rebuttal to the concept of “abortion is a personal matter between a woman and her scheduling calendar.”
And yet, there are a lot of pro-life women out there to admire and a lot of strong conservative females who, like Palin, advanced in their careers without the assistance of their husbands, but who don’t carry the negative baggage that Alaska’s former governor has acquired since she stunned the country with her magnificent rhetoric at the Republican National Convention in 2008.
That baggage was manageable for a very long while. I shouldered it willingly, because my loyalty to Palin transcended the person and extended to the principles that she represented. Sometimes, our standard bearers fall short in their personal lives and don’t exactly live up to our ideals. Nonetheless, we forgive them their trespasses and keep our eye on the prize. In my case, the prize was showing the nation that women did not walk in lockstep behind the symbol of a bloody coat hanger, and that it was very possible to have an independent mind as well as a pair of ovaries.
But Sarah Palin has now become a liability to me and to so many conservative women who stood on her shoulders. The nail in the coffin was her recent endorsement of Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president. It’s not so much that I despise Trump, which I actually do. It’s more that I expected an integrity from this woman that she clearly possesses but is apparently able to set aside when it suits her purposes, political, financial or otherwise.
I will never deny that she has integrity, because very few women would go ahead with a pregnancy knowing that their unborn child will be born with Down syndrome. To me, that is a symbol of humanity that makes Cecile Richards and her priestesses of “choice” look ghoulish and incredibly selfish. Nothing can diminish the magnificence of Palin’s own “choice.”
And yet, that alone is not enough to keep me silent and compliant when she endorses a man who has attacked the character of her former running mate, a flawed but undeniably heroic soldier-statesman who launched her into the public consciousness. Without John McCain, Palin would be inaugurating ceremonial salmon runs in Alaska, not commanding hundreds of thousands of dollars for books and speeches and television programs.
I’d expect a man who says the Bible is his favorite book but then makes a mockery of its contents (“Two Corinthians”? Really?) to make unsubstantiated, random attacks on those he sees as lesser beings. It’s not surprising that a man who talks about family values but has children with three different women (two of whom are not natural born citizens) would have no problem ridiculing the one true, pure thing that stands apart in the life of an otherwise complicated man. No one has ever argued that John McCain was a saint. Many conservatives feel betrayed by his positions on immigration and campaign finance and a host of other issues, and an equal number of liberals won’t forgive him for running against the first black president.
But no true American questions his character. Let me repeat that: No true American questions the character of a man who carries within him, in his battered body and solitary mind, the hell of Hanoi. That’s why Trump doesn’t even reach that threshold qualification for national leadership: He’s a small and nasty man, to use a phrase he’d understand.
And Palin, of all people, should know that. Here is what she said in Minnesota on that memorable September night seven years ago: “There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you … in places where winning means survival and defeat means death. And that man is John McCain. … In our day, politicians have readily shared much lesser tales of adversity than the nightmare world … in which this man, and others equally brave, served and suffered for their country. And it’s a long way from the fear and pain and squalor of a 6-by-4 cell in Hanoi to the Oval Office. But if Sen. McCain is elected president, that is the journey he will have made.”
I heard her speak those words, sitting at my kitchen table, mesmerized. I fell in love with her that night.
Perhaps that was my problem, believing that the words spoken by a person under the bright glare of adulation reflect the true character of the speaker. For me, this was a woman in whom I could place my hopes and expectations.
The passing years diminished, by small increments, my affection. They never, however, destroyed it. And to this day, I love the Sarah Palin that burst like a supernova into the political firmament all those years ago.
But now, with her embrace of a man who ridiculed the POW who made her possible, I’m forced to question my judgment, and her motives. And that makes me sad beyond belief.
• Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.