Sarah Palance

The masculine, populist, Old West spectacle that is Alaska Gov. Palin.
Crosscut archive image.
The masculine, populist, Old West spectacle that is Alaska Gov. Palin.

She's more man than you are; I don't care who you are. She's surely more man than my candidate or me. When you're as macho as Sarah Palin, bestriding the Last Frontier as its first female governor, "possession with intent" of actual testicles becomes irrelevant.

Out on the frontiers of feminism, women hunt, fish, trek the wilderness, run the government and bear children during a scheduled half-hour time slot sandwiched between a political speech in Texas and rustling up supper for the young 'uns. The Oregon Trail was said to be "hard on women and horses," but nobody reads those dusty histories anymore. We've got our own stories to enshrine — or at least, we've got Sarah's story. And Sarah, Alaska's own Jack Palance in a fur-trimmed mini skirt, makes those pioneers look like the pansies they were. Death in childbirth? Feh. At six months pregnant, Gov. Palin was running the hill trails and scalping squirrels for the pot.

Sarah Palin's apotheosis makes for compelling personal narrative. Like Gary Cooper in High Noon, she strode into town and rooted out the bad guys. Unlike Cooper's marshal, she retained power afterward. Sarah just kicks butt like that. The guv is like Ronald Reagan — with better hair.

Obama fans have reason to quail, even we barely reconstructed redneck types. Having once busted an ankle on the job and worked out the day, I figured I was tough enough — but Sarah iced a high school basketball championship on her broken leg. Then she staked her claim on the toughest hockey star in school. In the diminished climate of the continental U.S., being a pipeline honcho, snowmobile racing champ, and bush pilot with Jesse James swagger and Charles Bronson looks might make Todd Palin top dog. In Alaska, it only gets him to "First Dude."

Can't you just envision Sen. Obama gliding over a roundball court, all smooth motion and elegant leaps, trying not to look down while staying head and shoulders above unsinkable point guard "Sarah Barracuda?" She'd bite his knees off and draw a foul doing it. Scratch one field goal for black masculinity, and chalk one up for the Great White Hope. At halftime, she'd break for a moment to stake a claim (on her daughter's behalf) on the toughest hockey star in school.

If Sarah Palin makes like Much Man, she has her reasons. Hollywood's experience shows that actresses make the A-list by slathering jumbo mammaries over hard male attributes. Demi Moore doesn't squander screen time sniffling over the man who done her wrong. She fires Michael Douglas, drains Robert Redford's wallet, and orders Viggo Mortenson to suck her dick. With every feature film, her bazookas grow another letter or two. We know those babies are loaded for bear.

We guys evidently want to watch someone embody our secret ideals of masculine self-definition in an houri flesh wrapper. And why wouldn't I fantasize about striding across the wilderness like Sarah? A slowly plumping middle-aged vet, I haven't hunted in years and never once shot a moose. Gov. Palin shot one last week, just to provide more red meat for convention attendees. She doesn't wait for hunting season. That's for socialist collaborators.

Republican general election strategy, according to Sen. McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, is to dispense with issues of governance and concentrate on — what else? — compelling personal narratives. "This election is not about issues," said Davis. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." Also, issues are for wusses.

Democrats have left themselves no elbow room to kvetch about this, as they've been griping for years that presidential elections run a distant second place to pop culture. Staging a campaign with the glitz of American Idol and all the innuendo of the Jerry Springer show should be just the ticket to inveigle Americans off our soft sofas and out to the polls. Maybe next time around, we'll be able to vote with our TV clickers.

The life and times of Gov. Palin make for a great flick, a popcorn muncher full of special effects and stuntmen (no stuntwomen — Sarah Palin does her own stunts). A real summer-end bonus, this ain't no chick flick stifled by an ensemble cast of weepy emoters. We get treated to a full-on, big-studio action feature with backroom bad guys, bouncing boobs, a shady ethnic nemesis, plenty of shootin' and showdowns with the Rooskies. Who needs Angelina Jolie and her fey British accent? Alaska's action chick is man enough to bear all her own children.

Populism thrives in uncertain times. Successful populists understand that when people need comforting, tent revival charisma means more than dry recitations of political formulae. Name and face recognition go a long way toward providing this comfort. Good guys, heroes, and governors Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger learned this lesson early in their political careers. We love to watch 'em snap that tough guy tag line through a confident sneer, then clear the decks and stack the smoking bodies of America's (Arabic-named) rivals. Most of us are uninterested in comprehending the tax code, foreign policy machinations, or pedagogical programming requirements. Can you blame us? When it's crystal clear that our leaders are equally inept in these fields, we do what Pres. Bush does: We go with our gut. No guts, no glory. Hasta la vista, baby. Do you feel lucky, Obama?


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