Rarely has a figure in American culture generated such a wide diversity of opinion so insanely fast as Sarah Palin. Most controversial people - Martha Stewart, Angelina Jolie, Karl Rove, Kobe Bryant - are on the scene for a while before opinions harden. It's been less than a week for the good governor. We already know that she's a flip-flopper on the Bridge to Nowhere, she is petty and vindictive, and has some unusual friends, like the Alaska Independence Party.
What we don't have is a good nickname. She was known as "Sarah Barracuda" in high school, apparently, so that's old.
I propose this: Sarah Palin: The Most Beautiful Good Old Boy In the World.
Of course, Sarah Palin doesn't look like a good old boy. She's got a great smile, amazing cheekbones, fashionable glasses, a good sense of style, and great hair. I don't know whether or not she liked the Dukes of Hazzard (I liked the TV show, hated the movie), or whether she watches NASCAR. In this day and age, thanks to the fact that we are living in an enlightened age, a woman can be anything she wants to be. Even a good old boy. And that's what Sarah Palin is.
Not that there's anything wrong with being a good old boy. Bill Clinton was basically a good old boy with a degree from Yale Law. Good old boys can be very charming, particularly if they're the kind of good old boy who's got your back and wants to invite to his place for a barbecue. I like to think of Bill Clinton as a very progressive version of the good old boy.
But let's be honest: good old boys take care of each other first and foremost, and that what Sarah Palin is all about. Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking care of your own. It's just that when doing that interferes with taking care of others as well that we start to have problems. Good old boys take care of people other than their own, but mostly when it's convenient.
That's what Sarah Palin does - takes care of her own. Sarah Palin is no reformer. She's not a "maverick." She's a good old boy. Not technically, of course, there's a chromosomal issue that can't be avoided, but culturally. She's not from Washington, but she's tight with Ted Stevens, she knows how to get her city and state some good old fashioned earmarks. She knows how to work the system. And all the regular good old boys love her because she's gorgeous, and she knows how to play their game. Figure out the rules, figure out how to get yours, figure out how to be ruthless who you need to be, and figure out how pretend to be a victim when it suits you. Don't screw people over unless you really have to (or unless you really want to), and then try not to get in too much trouble when you do.
The best thing for Sarah about being a good old boy is that no one expects it of her. Talk about an advantage: make sure people are paying attention to the smile on your face, not the knife in your hand. Having a beautiful smile makes that SO MUCH EASIER!
And try not to piss off too many people that they end up ganging up on you. I'm not sure if Sarah is really prepared on that last one.
I don't want to underestimate her. She's obviously got something going on if she managed to make it from being a small-town mayor to Governor of Alaska in just a few years. That's the thing about good old boys: they can be easily underestimated. Bill Clinton and George Bush both used that to their advantage.
I don't think Democrats are going to make that mistake.