This, by the way, is why Sarah Palin was so refreshing and, to be clear, so exotic to all the elites: a woman who could raise herself up by dint of hard work and self-sacrifice to be a wife, mother, mayor, and governor. She didn’t do it by set-asides, by birth, by quotas, or by handouts. She did it as a woman and she did it by her efforts. She exemplified what we all once saw as America—a land of opportunity, where you could be anything you set your mind to be so long as you worked for it. She showed us something about both her character and ours, our old-fashioned American character. For all this, she had to be ridiculed—she represented a kind of American virtue that shames the privileged, whether they be rich or poor.
But maybe we as a party have boxed ourselves in. We believe that prosperity will trickle down from the success of the prosperous and we believe (or have been shamed into believing) in the superior moral status of those whose only job is always to ask for more. But the shiftless have no greater moral claim than others, and prosperity doesn’t always trickle down from the top. It wells up from the efforts of the working classes, the middle classes, the builders, doers, and makers of America. And it’s not just small-business owners who are the backbone of America but the clerks and sales people and night watchmen in those businesses.
The poor knew Obama was on their side, and the liberal rich were always in his camp. (If it’s simply “the economy, stupid,” and not culture and values, then why does Connecticut always vote Democratic and West Virginia not?) No, the strange thing was that the party of self-reliance, of initiative, of productivity and hard work, the party of cops and soldiers, firemen and farmers, hunters and ranchers—the party of ordinary American virtue, not privilege—allowed itself to look like the party of big oil and bailouts. How bizarre it was to see a plumber trying to come to our rescue and tell us what to say; but it was already too late.