The Commentary article should be read in tandem with this analysis of the different types/categories of conservative political candidates—also a very helpful piece.
But on to Commentary Magazine, from which the below is excerpted:
But this was not how Palin was received on the national scene. Instead, her views on matters of cultural and social controversy very quickly became the chief focus of media attention, liberal criticism, and pundit analysis. Palin was assigned every view and position the Left considered unenlightened, and the response to her brought into the light all manner of implicit liberal assumptions about cultural conservatives. We were told that Palin was opposed to contraception, advocated teaching creationism in schools, and was inclined to ban books she disagreed with. She was described as a religious zealot, an anti-abortion extremist, a blind champion of abstinence-only sex education. She was said to have sought to make rape victims pay for their own medical exams, to have Alaska secede from the Union, and to get Pat Buchanan elected President. She was reported to believe that the Iraq war was mandated by God, that the end-times prophesied in the Book of Revelation were nearing and only Alaska would survive, and that global warming was purely a myth. None of this was true.
Her personal life came under withering assault as well. Palin’s capacity to function as a senior elected official while raising five children was repeatedly questioned by liberal pundits who would never dare to express such views about a female candidate whose opinions were more congenial to them. Her teenage daughter’s pregnancy was splattered all over the front pages (garnering three New York Times stories in a single day on September 2). Some bloggers even suggested her youngest child had not issued from her, but from her daughter instead, and that she had participated in a bizarre cover-up. I attended a gathering in Washington at which a prominent columnist wondered aloud how Palin could pursue her career when her religious beliefs denied women the right to work outside the home.
Palin became the embodiment of every dark fantasy the Left had ever held about the views of evangelical Christians and women who do not associate themselves with contemporary feminism, and all concern for clarity and truthfulness was left at the door.
To be sure, some criticisms of Palin were entirely appropriate. She had no experience in foreign or defense policy and very little expertise in or command of either. In a time of war, with a seventy-two-year-old presidential candidate who had already survived one bout with cancer, this was a cause for very real concern. And Palin did perform dreadfully in some early interviews. Some of her more level-headed critics did make their case on these grounds. But the more common visceral hostility toward her seemed to have little to do with these objections. Rather, the entire episode had the feel of a kind of manic outburst; it was triggered by a false understanding of who Palin was, and once it began, there was no stopping or controlling it.
The reaction to Palin revealed a deep and intense cultural paranoia on the Left: an inclination to see retrograde reaction around every corner, and to respond to it with vile anger. A confident, happy, and politically effective woman who was also a social conservative was evidently too much to bear. The response of liberal feminists was in this respect particularly telling, and especially unpleasant.
“Her greatest hypocrisy is her pretense that she is a woman,” wrote Wendy Doniger, a professor at the University of Chicago. “Having someone who looks like you and behaves like them,” said Gloria Steinem, “who looks like a friend but behaves like an adversary, is worse than having no one.”
This preposterous effort to excommunicate Palin from her gender suggests that the kind of new-order feminism she represents—a feminism that embraces cultural traditionalism and workplace egalitarianism at the same time—is especially frightening to those on the feminist Left because they recognize its power and appeal. The attempt to destroy Sarah Palin by rushing to paint her as a backwoods extremist was not a show of strength, but rather a sign of desperation.
Meanwhile, on the Right, Palin was the cause of a manic episode of a different sort. The governor’s touching life story, her folksy way of speaking, and her gut-level appeal to the culture of the lower middle class exercised tremendous power over many conservatives, which inclined them to fill the sizable blanks in Palin’s political profile with their own wishful assumptions, and to make flustered excuses for her shortcomings.
There was a strong case to be made in her defense. Palin had as much foreign-policy experience as most governors do, and Americans have been willing time and again to overlook such inexperience in their hunger for proven executive acumen in Washington. (Four of the last five Presidents had been governors, after all, and Palin was running for Vice President with a foreign-policy expert at the top of the ticket.) And while Palin seemed out of her depth in several television interviews, she was extraordinarily effective on the stump, was a quick study, and proved to be at least an even match for Joe Biden, a six-term senator, in the vice-presidential debate.
Yet, for all these defenses, there could be no denying Palin’s real deficiencies.