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Sunday 20 June 2010

This courageous 'Mama Grizzly' is still clawing her way to the top

Critics dismiss Sarah Palin as a gun-toting hick, but Ruth Dudley Edwards admires her fighting spirit

Although I reluctantly concluded that Sarah Palin was too lightweight to be a good choice for US president in 2012, I'm an unashamed fan. I admire her courage, chutzpah, common sense, humour and the inspirational leadership she offers those despised by the Washington elite.

That fine poet, Philip Larkin, voice of the fed-up ordinary bloke, once told an interviewer: "A writer once said to me, 'if you ever go to America, go either to the east coast or the west coast, the rest is a desert full of bigots'. That's what I think I'd like. Where if you help a girl trim the Christmas tree you're regarded as engaged, and her brothers start oiling their shotguns if you don't call on the minister."

I thought of Larkin as I read of the Kenny-Bruton contest, for although I don't think the 'Up Mayo!' attitude to Irish politics does much for the country, and indeed have an urban soul, I have a visceral loathing of the sneering condescension of metropolitan types and a deep distrust of intellectuals in politics.

I visit Indiana more often than anywhere else in the US, partly because I feel that it's the heartbeat of America, and Alaska, Palin's home, is the state I like best.

All the character assassination and ridicule visited upon Governor Palin by those who dismissed her with a shudder as a folksy, gun-toting hick has not dented her spirit. Ruthlessly deploying her looks and charm, she criss-crossed the country to make her autobiography, Going Rogue, a mega-seller, and -- to the alarm of her many enemies -- she is riding high as the voice of the young and vigorous Tea Party Movement.

These John and Jane Does are the infantry in the war against Washington (personified by the aloof, cerebral machine politician that is President Barack Obama and the wealthy career politician, Californian Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives), which they believe is bent on ruining the essence of America by replacing free enterprise, small government and personal responsibility with wasteful European-style statism and large-scale income redistribution.

Palin's ability to turn Tea Party anger into votes for her approved candidates is rattling the Democratic Party and she is loving it. While she despises gender politics, she is particularly enthusiastic about a wave of tough female Republicans whom she has named 'Mama Grizzlies'.

On Facebook, where she had at last count 1,648,845 friends, Palin describes watching bears fishing. "Obviously not waiting for another bear to do the work for them, the mama bears not only foraged for themselves to prepare for winter, but they worked twice as hard to slay salmon for their cubs, too, making sure the future of the population was ready for the season ahead.

"She would instinctively rear up on hind legs when her cubs were threatened -- you don't mess with her cubs. And most importantly, she didn't just hand over a free fish for the day -- she taught young ones how to fish for a lifetime." So much for welfare dependency.

Among those Palin has endorsed is Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard, who just won the Californian primary to challenge career-politician Senator Barbara Boxer. She backed successful businesswoman Nikki Haley, of Sikh Indian immigrant parentage, who is seeking the nomination to run for the governorship of South Carolina, and whom Palin has defended against allegations of extra-marital affairs.

And she's just announced her support for another trio of "bold common-sense Conservative women".

She admires "pro-family, pro-business fiscal conservative" Washington state congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a farmer's daughter and the first in her family to attend college, and, like Palin, the mother of a Down Syndrome child, who campaigns for families with special needs and is fervently anti-abortion.

And she admires African-American Star Parker, running for a Californian congress seat, because of how as a single mother on welfare, she embraced Christianity, turned her life around and became a defender of "free market solutions and personal responsibility".

Then there's Oklahoma congresswoman Mary Fallin, a campaigner for energy independence, whom Palin rates as a woman of political backbone and real-world knowledge.

"I heartily endorse these liberty-loving Mama Grizzlies," Palin has told her followers. "They'll do more than just growl about our challenges because they know how to work hard and protect America's future by ushering a new era of prosperity and security. How? By proving their selfless service, common sense, and respect for the will of the people."

And so, to the consternation of the Democratic Party and liberals everywhere, Palin continues remorselessly to pick and plug her favourites, shrugging off criticism and abuse as she goes. As she puts it herself: "You don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies."

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards