The Silent Majority

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

LONDON — From the patronizing, snobbish, misogynist, bigoted, and, at times, downright malicious flood of bile emitted by the transatlantic intelligentsia over the past week, you would never have guessed that Sarah Palin is the most interesting figure to have emerged so far in this presidential campaign.

What you might correctly surmise, however, is that liberal columnists from Maureen Dowd of the New York Times to Alice Miles of the London Times have a real problem with the very fact that Governor Palin is running, even though it is only for the vice presidency.

They not only don’t know people like her — they have never even met anybody like her. And, having been forced to acknowledge the existence of this alien life form, they have instantly decided that they hate her for what she believes, for what she has done, and for what she is.


Among the male commentators, there is also a vicious strain of misogyny. For Johann Hari of the London Independent she is “Dick Cheney with breasts.” For Rod Liddle of the Spectator she is “a backwoods polar-bear-strangling Britney Spears manqué.” He too leers at her “embonpoint.” For Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian her candidacy is not only “a setback for women” — it ought to have been Hillary — “but also a setback for America itself.”

Of course there are legitimate doubts about Mrs. Palin. Some of the American columnists I most respect share these doubts. My friend Charles Krauthammer’s first reaction was dismay at Senator McCain’s gamble, which he sees as unnecessarily reckless and potentially “suicidal.” My own view is that Mr. McCain knows exactly why he needed to take this risk. He is not a man to go quietly. We shall see whether he was right to pick this particular fight.

However, the grotesque coverage of the Palin story in Europe has nothing to do with such rational considerations, but is of a piece with the way the whole election has been covered here. It seems that European press pundits have learned nothing from the way they got it wrong in the last two presidential elections: their assumption that President Bush couldn’t possibly win because the rest of the world (for which they are the self-appointed spokespersons) thought him unelectable. They still don’t get it. If the McCain-Palin ticket proves to be a loser, it certainly won’t be for lack of approval from foreign “experts” on American politics.


As I write this, it is still uncertain whether Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin will manage to electrify America at the Republican convention this week. But I can confidently predict that whatever happens in Minneapolis, the BBC and the rest of the European press will report events there as a bizarre interruption in the serene progress of Barack Obama toward his rightful inheritance of the imperial presidency.

It is true that Senator Obama has distanced himself from the more disreputable smears about Mrs. Palin and her family. He is evidently sincere about this, having suffered unfairly from such rumor-mongering himself. But the army of “investigative reporters” who have apparently arrived in Alaska has not been sent there to conduct a balanced appraisal of the governor’s record.

The results of their muck-raking will be magnified here in Europe by the lens of anti-Americanism, which transforms attitudes that are entirely normal in small-town America into the pathological symptoms of a rogue superpower. Thus the fact that the Palins hunt and fish, that they support drilling for oil, and are global warming sceptics, that they care more about protecting the unborn child than protecting polar bears, renders them not merely exotic, but beyond the pale of polite society.


I want no part of this mass condescension by the Old World toward the New. At least when Donald Rumsfeld provoked Western Europeans by contrasting the negative reaction to American policy in “Old Europe” with the positive one in the “New Europe” to the East, he was pointing to a genuinely important and novel phenomenon — one that still persists.

The Russian invasion of Georgia has divided Europe along similar pro- and anti-Atlanticist lines. But the American election has not done so — not yet. There is still an assumption, shared widely across Europe, that an Obama presidency is both inevitable and desirable.

Europeans ignore inconvenient facts, such as Mr. McCain’s consistent advocacy of U.S. intervention in defense of freedom and democracy in Europe, and has actually visited Georgia, in contrast to Mr. Obama, who said nothing about Georgia in his speech to the Democratic convention last week apart from a vague reference to Russian “aggression.”

There are millions of Europeans, not only in the former communist states, but in the older democracies too, who share the values of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin. This is the Europe whose voice is rarely heard above the noisy babble of the elites. But Europe’s silent majority is as conservative as America’s, even if the forms which conservatism takes in either side of the Atlantic differ in various respects.

The problem is that American conservatives have largely failed to connect with their counterparts in Europe. It is the Republicans who offer the strong, free trading, freedom-loving America that Europe needs and that is in such stark contrast to the timorous, protectionist, inward-looking America that the Democrats would deliver. But hardly anybody in Europe believes this — yet.

Mr. Johnson is the editor of Standpoint.

The New York Sun

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