Gov. Palin’s speech was directed not just at the audience in the chamber, but at the Clinton primary voters across the Midwest who could hear much in this speech that they could agree with. It did so by reframing, in powerful terms, the conservative reaction to the political tide of the sexual revolution and liberal feminism. Where Hillary Clinton framed her cracking of the glass ceiling as the triumph of the bra-burners of the 1960s, Palin frames it as a triumph of the conservative vision of empowered womanhood. It has more in common with Luce and Anthony than with Steinem and Friedan, based on a vision of the political leader as dedicated mother and political champion of patriotism and family.
But it’s more than that: what Palin showed us – and the reason someone like Wolf Blitzer can respond “a star is born” (even as Anderson Cooper still parrots the “Barack’s run a campaign! That makes him qualified!”) to the remarks – is that a woman can smile, and wield a knife at the same time. Most Republican conventions in recent years have featured milquetoast speeches from women who spoke more about lovey-dovey unobjectionable pro-American points. Palin could have given a speech like that – call it a Miss America speech – where she spent 15 minutes talking about special needs children and initiatives for school uniforms. Instead, she talked about Energy, Taxes, and Foreign Policy.
The only criticism Donna Brazile can manage is that this was a speech was drafted by Matt Scully, a speechwriter for Bush (and HW, and FDT, and many others); that’s fine. Barack Obama’s campaign is actually being run by people who’ve worked for John Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, Bob Torricelli, Fritz Hollings, and Eliot Spitzer. Among others.