Sarah Palin celebrated Bastille Day Tuesday with an op-ed against "cap and trade" in the Washington Post. Bless the editors of that newspaper for permitting it. Predictably, even Pavlovianly liberal, as they may be on almost any issue, there is a little streak of "wicked" mischief in them that makes their paper worth reading occasionally. Their op-ed policy is to run real conservatives from time to time -- including Charles Krauthammer, currently the doyen of "no we can't" opposition to the whole agenda of Barack Obama and the Nancy Pelosi Congress.
Whereas, other liberal newspapers -- the New York Times comes to mind -- feel comfortable only when fitting disguised liberals into their tiny "token conservative" copy holes. They instinctively limit the field to those Republicans who want to "engage with" the liberal agenda -- to "sophisticated" pundits, such as David Brooks, who memorably retracted the views he had presented in one column, after his contacts at the White House called him to suggest he was too far out of line.
I think it is worth considering here the "evolution" of North American media into what is now a liberal monolith -- except Rupert Murdoch's holdings, and what bleats on talk radio and the Internet.
This is a slightly deeper history than is generally supposed, with some non-political causes. These were economic developments as big as the growth of two-income families, and as subtle as the traffic jams that started to prevent efficient daytime distribution of newspapers. Their aggregate effect was to put America's afternoon dailies progressively out of business, from the 1950s forward.
Morning papers circulated chiefly in the city cores, among a readership more liberal, and tended to be Democrat. Evening papers circulated more beyond the city, among a readership more conservative, and tended to be Republican. But from any given city, there were two distinct party points of view, and better-informed people read both newspapers. (In Canada, same thing, but Liberal and Conservative parties; in this very town, the examples were the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Journal.)
The loss of those evening papers, and their replacement with network TV news, and other national media such as newsmagazines -- guided ultimately by the attitudes of editors and directors in New York City -- helps to explain what happened. The media ground on which American political discussion rests, shifted, largely eliminating public expression of conservative views.
The outrage expressed, today, at the very existence of Sarah Palin, not only by progressive Democrats but by urbane "establishment" Republicans, is in many ways the product of this shift. Increasingly, I find, people on the left simply cannot accept any right-wing view as legitimate. The mere fact it can be so labelled puts it beyond the pale.
We often read that the old categories of "left" and "right" have become irrelevant. It is an argument almost invariably propounded by the left. They have been freed, for more than a generation, from anything resembling serious public debate, and have thus got in the habit of proceeding with an infinitely extendible agenda (through the courts if there are legislative delays). The right has meanwhile got in the habit of feeling disenfranchised.
The right is still there, however: mostly invisible to media editors, beyond their goldfish world. (The immense success of Fox News came from recognizing this "niche market," consisting of about half the population.)
We have one group that lives under the highly artificial and intensely regulated conditions of post-modern urban life. (Even if they go to a cottage, it will be equipped with the electronic paraphernalia to create a bubble of urbanity.) And, we have another group who remain in contact with the eternal verities of life on this planet. (Who, for instance, associate electric power with doing work, as opposed to "making consumer choices.")
Perhaps better terms for the two sides, to replace left and right, might be "martians" and "earthlings."
It is to the earthlings in this scenario that Ms. Palin is speaking. And when she writes lines like this intentional jaw-dropper in the Washington Post -- "We are ripe for economic growth and energy independence if we responsibly tap the resources that God created right underfoot on American soil" -- she is quite intentionally signalling that she is ready for war.
That only implies an immediate run for the presidency to people who cannot understand her. Instead, she intends to use her celebrity to champion the views of the many earth-based Americans who have been overlooked -- and whom the Republican establishment will continue to patronize, and overlook, at the cost of their own annihilation.
We are going to have a war, next door in the U.S.A. -- a war between two world views that have become very nearly mutually incomprehensible. One might almost say that it was quietly declared on the op-ed of the Washington Post Tuesday.