Mrs. Smith.

Here’s what some of the pundits don’t get about the Sarah Palin pick. They’re having fun with her inexperience, her “it’s nice to see a different part of the country” when she speaks in Pennsylvania, her “I’m going to have to bone up on Iraq,” etc. They don’t get that her extraordinarily quick rise, her inexperience, and even her naivete (if such it is), far from being handicaps, are the very things that make her the Frank Capra Mr. Smith/Mr. Deeds hero. Or remember Dave from 1993? In which Kevin Kline (who runs a temp agency) becomes President of the United States because of his resemblance to the real one? And how he turns out to be great, a much better president than his doppelganger? Sure, those were all just movies. But they were powerful movies, because they evoked our American mythology—the ordinary Joe as redeemer—in the same way Palin does. Can you not just see Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith telling Pennsylvanians, “It’s nice to see a different part of the country?” I can.

She appears, at this early stage, to be the Capra archetype—underqualified by “establishment” measures, but a person of the people, possessed of integrity, goodness, internal strength, and a commitment to values (even if you don’t share all of them) that collectively trump conventional qualifications.

Her speedy rise (mayor of Wassila, Alaska, pop. 7000, only a few years ago; then suddenly, governor of Alaska) is evidence of her inexperience, but the bad news (if you’re a Democrat) is that it also shows that the people who know her really, really like her.

As a Democrat, I’m concerned.

This is not a replay of “I’m for George Bush because I can have a beer with him.” That was bogus. Bush was never that guy; his biography made that plain. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is a genuine Frank Capra movie come to life. And even though it’s scary to imagine her a heartbeat from the presidency, her Capraness could make her formidable. As I recall, Mr. Smith came to Washington from Idaho. If there’s a state that out-Idahos Idaho, it could only be Alaska. Besides which, Idaho? That’s where Sarah Palin was born.

P.S. Not all the pundits have missed the point. After writing the above, I went to The Huffington Post, where I see that Arianna sees the problem as well.


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