Has the Times' popular motherhood (and feminist) columnist Judith Warner had an epiphany? Her Thursday online column, "No Laughing Matter," is certainly toned down from her hysterical attacks on Sarah Palin last Thursday in "The Mirrored Ceiling," even suggesting that just maybe Palin's supporters have a point.
It turns out there was something more nauseating than the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate this past week. It was the tone of the acclaim that followed her acceptance speech....Why does this woman - who to some of us seems as fake as they can come, with her delicate infant son hauled out night after night under the klieg lights and her pregnant teenage daughter shamelessly instrumentalized for political purposes - deserve, to a unique extent among political women, to rank as so "real"?
For her more recent piece, Warner ventured deep into the heart of Republican land (uncharted territory for many Times scribes). At Wednesday's McCain-Palin rally in Fairfax, Va., she made a few slippery stabs at the GOP sea of smiley white faces:
"You can stand on my wagon, if you want."
I tend, when I'm not in big crowds, to forget that I'm short. In Republican crowds, I find, I feel particularly small.
And dark. And unsmiling. And uncoiffed, unmade-up and inappropriately dressed.
For the McCain/Palin rally in Fairfax, Va., on Wednesday, the organizers had asked people to wear red. I - unthinkingly - had dressed in blue, which was somewhat isolating.
She admitted that she'd come to the McCain-Palin rally for laughs:
I should have been finding this funny. My whole plan, after all, had been to write something funny this week about the whole Sarah Palin phenomenon.
But when a friend didn't show up to laugh along at the silly Republicans, she was forced to talk to some of the "real" people who came to see the rally...and may have even learned something. Though she retains her liberal reserve, she at least admits to being puzzled to be confronted by the fact that the normal-seeming folks around her hold to their political beliefs just as sincerely as she holds to her own:
.... forced to make new friends on the spot, discovered that the Palin Phenomenon is no laughing matter....No, it wasn't funny, my morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the homeschooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making and spun them on the lawn, dancing, when music played. It was sobering. It was serious. It was an education.
"Palin Power" isn't just about making hockey moms feel important. It's not just about giving abortion rights opponents their due. It's also, in obscure ways, about making yearnings come true - deep, inchoate desires about respect and service, hierarchy and family that have somehow been successfully projected onto the figure of this unlikely woman and have stuck.
For those of us who can't tap into those yearnings, it seems the Palin faithful are blind - to the contradictions between her stated positions and the truth of the policies she espouses, to the contradictions between her ideology and their interests. But Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, "What Makes People Vote Republican?", that it's liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.
...liberals need to start working harder at breaking through the empathy barrier.
Times Watch encourages Warner on her journey.