With sass and wit, sarcasm and sincerity, and courage and strength, Sarah Palin last night showed us a new model of female politician.
Her family stories were genuine and real. Her commitment to special-needs children was moving. Her contempt for special interests was obvious. And her putdowns of Barack Obama's rhetoric and her praise of John McCain's character and achievements were welcome and well delivered.
Many women look bad when they attack their opponents, too often seeming strident and shrill. But Palin was funny and irreverant, with a biting wit and a joy of combat that was exhilarating to watch.
Sometimes she reminded us of the hockey mom she is. Other times, she was an American Margaret Thatcher — mobilizing humor and biting satire to mock the opposition.
Where Hillary Clinton has but two speeds — full forward and stop — Palin displayed a range of rhetoric, emotion and language that sometimes evoked moving patriotism, at other times hilarious irony, and, frequently, a strong dose of common sense.
If her style in attacking and mocking her opponent was Thatcher-esque, her range of rhetorical style was Rooseveltian. She is, in fact, one of the best public speakers in our politics today.
Now the Democrats are stuck in a trap. They've demeaned, patronized and smeared a woman who's well on her way to becoming very, very popular. Her speech will create legions of fans; the Democratic smears of the last few days will create, for Obama, legions of enemies.
This man who dedicated two years to stopping a woman from being president now has to answer for spending two months stopping one from becoming vice president — a task he hopes to accomplish using women's votes.
Remember — the swing vote in this election are single moms. Just as the soccer moms dominated in 1996 and security moms in 2004, now unmarried women, mostly with children, will determine the outcome of the 2008 race. And they're finding in Sarah Palin an advocate whose life isn't far different from their own and whose priorities mirror theirs.
As withering in her contempt for the country-club elites of the Republican establishment as for the pandering of the Democrats, Palin stands in stark contrast to the inherited elitism of the Bushes, the Romneys and the Kennedys. She's a woman of the people.
Was this a Republican attacking big oil? Was it the nominee for vice president of a major party who laced into earmarks and lobbyists and PACs? Yes it was — and how refreshing!
In her sincere embrace of her family and her nonjudgmental introduction of her pregnant daughter, Palin won the hearts of many single moms. By evoking life in a modest, middle-class town, she established an empathy with voters akin to what Bill Clinton built when he ate at McDonald's.
How are the Democrats to live down their assaults on Sarah? How not to seem the enemies of the very voters they have to get?
Strategically, Palin achieved the convention's core goal: to show how McCain is not a clone of George Bush, but a man of the people eager for change and demanding of reforms.
Now the gap between Obama and McCain is not so wide. Now it is clear that they both stand for change.
So now the fear of a naive and untried Obama leading the nation through perilous times at home and abroad can work to drive voters over the narrower synapse and get them to vote for McCain.
Mission accomplished, Sarah.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann