We had frigid weather and several inches of Goreflakes on the ground here in Colorado Springs, but Sarah Palin lit up the town for a Borders signing earlier this evening that drew yet another massive crowd on her nationwide “Going Rogue” book tour.
My family and I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting the governor, her husband Todd, adorable baby Trig, her lovely parents, relatives, and friends from near and far. Sarah’s energy is boundless and her ability to connect is unparalleled with any public figure I’ve met in covering politics over the last 17 years. I spoke, for example, with the first family in line for the book signing. They arrived at 4:30am with four kids in tow. Sarah, the father of the family told me, had written a personal letter sending prayers and good wishes for one of their children battling cancer. On the way out, I ran into a soldier in BDUs rushing through the door with Palin’s book in hand. Breathless, he asked: “Do you think there’s any hope I’ll get my book signed?” Given the special attentiveness Palin’s staff paid to military and their families (several Blue Star families got VIP access), I’m sure he got his autograph. There are countless stories like this in every single city she has visited.
The governor and I talked briefly about Copenhagen (here’s her latest piece in the Washington Post calling on President Obama to stay home in the wake of ClimateGate), left-wing attacks on conservative politicians (Michele Bachmann is the latest target of specious ethics complaints), and the blessings of living outside the Beltway. Most of all, I’m glad I got a chance to simply say “Thank you” in person — for her strong conservative voice, for her relentless optimism in the face of unrelenting attacks, and for her public service as a defender of life and advocate of the American dream.
Stanley Fish gets it:
For many politicians, family life is sandwiched in between long hours in public service. Palin wants us to know that for her it is the reverse. Political success is an accident that says nothing about you. Success as a wife, mother and citizen says everything.
Do I believe any of this? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that she does, and that her readers feel they are hearing an authentic voice. I find the voice undeniably authentic (yes, I know the book was written “with the help” of Lynn Vincent, but many books, including my most recent one, are put together by an editor). It is the voice of small-town America, with its folk wisdom, regional pride, common sense, distrust of rhetoric (itself a rhetorical trope), love of country and instinctive (not doctrinal) piety. It says, here are some of the great things that have happened to me, but they are not what makes my life great and American. (“An American life is an extraordinary life.”) It says, don’t you agree with me that family, freedom and the beauties of nature are what sustain us? And it also says, vote for me next time. For it is the voice of a politician, of the little girl who thought she could fly, tried it, scraped her knees, dusted herself off and “kept walking.”
In the end, perseverance, the ability to absorb defeat without falling into defeatism, is the key to Palin’s character. It’s what makes her run in both senses of the word and it is no accident that the physical act of running is throughout the book the metaphor for joy and real life. Her handlers in the McCain campaign wouldn’t let her run (a mistake, I think, even at the level of photo-op), no doubt because they feared another opportunity to go “off script,” to “go rogue.”
But run she does (and falls, but so what?), and when it is all over and she has lost the vice presidency and resigned the governorship, she goes on a long run and rehearses in her mind the eventful year she has chronicled. And as she runs, she achieves equilibrium and hope: “We’ve been through amazing days, and really, there wasn’t one thing to complain about. I feel such freedom, such hope, such thankfulness for our country, a place where nothing is hopeless.”
The message is clear. America can’t be stopped. I can’t be stopped. I’ve stumbled and fallen, but I always get up and run again.