Sarah Palin’s America and Scott Brown’s Boston
By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 8/23/10
It is tribute to Sarah Palin’s folkloric status that a Washington Post article today refers to a South Dakota politician, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, with “wholesome, conservative values” as “the Democratic Party’s own mama grizzly, straight out of the heartland.” Herseth Sandlin’s Republican opponent, state Rep. Kristi Noem, is being called at home “the next Sarah Palin.” But this is the way they used to talk shortly after Bob Dylan awakened his world. They were always finding the “next Bob Dylan” but there was none. They did however follow his lead. Today, only Sarah Palin and the Oracle Octopus of Oberhausen share the status of original folk hero. Recently, the Post has been catching up with the world of Sarah Palin. They even have an interactive “Palin Endorsement Tracker” featuring a picture of Palin and Nikki Haley, the Republican candidate for governor in South Carolina who skyrocketed in the polls when Palin endorsed her.
The conflict we face today is city vs. country, just as we did in 1829 when Andrew Jackson, the most folkloric of all American folk heroes, shook up the Beltway establishment. They would follow his lead too. The country always wins in a vast agricultural nation like ours and it will win this time. But it is putting New York and Boston in the most awkward situations, because at times like this, the first will be last: It’s in the Bible. Jackson not only ran against the Beltway Establishment, he ran against the whole colonial era. But the era had ended anyway as they always do and Jackson simply came next. That’s where we are now. The Kennedy Era has ended. Something different is coming next and Sarah Palin brings it.
Of all the jabs at Palin from the entrenched establishment’s opinion makers – fascist, red neck, Ku Klux Klan, has a Garfield calendar, “ . . . out of her league,” Islamophobe (or my favorite, “beyond Islamophobe”) “breeder” (which people with shaved heads and tattoos on them yell out the window of cars at you up here in Vermont if they see you with children) – the most garden variety is “not smart.” Michelle Bachmann as well. So Barney Frank would ask “Is Michelle Bachmann as smart as a fifth grader?”
They think that people outside Boston and New York are not as smart as they are; especially people from the country like Sarah Palin. It is especially neurotic here in Boston. Because most of our families were proles even when Ted Williams was at bat; some of them really historically gnarly proles. That is why we the proles and ethnics and minorities felt the need to conquer Harvard, Temple Mount of the Protestant Establishment (and Martha’s Vineyard, of course, where its celebrity scholars bask) and make it our own. But the Back Bay/Beacon Hill crowd was always gracious; they just moved to Texas and built a new temple.
Before Jack Kennedy Boston was a grim, dirty place with an elevated highway running right through the center of it and red-haired pink people screaming out of the windows of cars at you and throwing bottles. After a brief joy which abruptly ended on Nov. 22, 1963, it became the dark, bitter place well depicted in the Martin Scorsese movie “The Departed.” No longer. The Curse is lifted. Manny saved us. The era has passed. Boston today is a sea of baby strollers and Red Sox caps. It is Scott Brown’s Boston and it is fairly well suited to greet Sarah Palin’s America.