Moderate Republican Women and the Sarah Palin Dilemma

We want to like her, but she makes it difficult.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Today Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue, comes out, and she's the talk of the town. Everyone seems to have an opinion: Here's Evan Thomas in Newsweek, Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic, and Geoffrey Dunn in the Huffington Post, to name only a few.

You'll notice that many of the loudest opinions are coming from the men. For me, and for a lot of moderate-to-conservative women, it's been interesting to watch. None of us are saying much. It made me cringe when Maureen Dowd called Sarah Palin "Caribou Barbie"—if a man had said that, people would have said it was too much—and other women on the left have been vocal, especially in that just-released collection of essays called Going Rouge. But I've noticed that center-right women are sort of sitting on their hands. At least so far.

We want to like her—there aren't many female Republican leaders we can root for, and so we don't want to turn on one of our own. Palin is, in some ways, like many of us: on the younger side of middle age, houseful of kids, works part-to-full time, not your father's GOP. I've been to Alaska to fish for salmon; I love to fly-fish and just learned how to shoot a shotgun, so that side of her intrigues me. Supporting women who have the guts to go into politics is important to me, and so I'm trying to do that.

But she's made it difficult. She couldn't be more different from most women I know: Her image is as a take-no-prisoners conservative, extremist in her rhetoric, publicity-crazed yet anti-media. Her perspective is from that of a rural state, one that really has no urban neighborhoods, so I wonder how much of an "everywoman" she is compared to those of us worrying about crime, crowded schools, and traffic. I couldn't tell you a single policy position of hers, and I read the papers daily. She says she doesn't like drama, but her personal life is all over the celebrity tabloids. And most importantly, from what I've read in Andrew Sullivan's writings, she seems to have a problem with telling the truth.

Many women I know are uncomfortable when asked about her. But many women across the country are coming out in droves to meet her at book signings and rallies, and frankly, it's baffling. Most women I know are more interested in finding common ground these days, and they're sick of all the fighting. Yet Palin seems to be feeding the cable-news partisanship and the Entertainment Tonight craziness all at the same time. What's the appeal?

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to buy her book today and read it over Thanksgiving. I'll come back and give you my reactions after actually reading it and seeing what she has to say. I don't have the resources to fact-check every statement in it—the AP already started doing that—but I can give a moderate Republican woman's reaction to it. I'm looking forward to seeing if there's any there, there.

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