When a little-known (outside of Alaska) governor was announced as John McCain’s running mate Aug. 29, 2008, the Republican Party’s base was electrified and the elites of both the Democrat and Republican parties were mortified.
Five days later Sarah Palin gave her speech to the Republican National Convention and she demonstrated that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with in conservative politics for years to come—a force that the elites will forever fail to understand.
Palin opens Going Rogue: An American Life at the Alaska State Fair in August 2008. She was there with her daughters and infant son Trig—not with an entourage and a host of bodyguards—but with her family, watching her children and their friends ride the rides. Whereas politicians attend those events to shake hands and be seen, Palin was busy keeping up with her kids and buying concessions, like millions of Americans do every year.
But it was at the fair that her life forever changed. For it was there she received the call from McCain that would rock the political establishment.
Although she grew up in Skagaway, Alaska, where her family moved in 1964 when Palin—then Sarah Heath—was just 3 months old, her life was like the vast majority of most Americans’. Her father was a school teacher and coach who worked summers on the Alaska Railroad and tended bar in seasonal tourist traps. Her mother was occupied raising four children, driving a seasonal tour bus and volunteering at the community theatre and the Catholic church.
It’s her everyday American upbringing—raising chickens, growing produce, fishing and digging for clams and picking wild berries—that drives the elites nuts. It’s her blue collar work ethic, her annual work in Bristol Bay in July commercial fishing for salmon with her husband, Todd, that drives the elites crazy. It’s her blue-collar, union oil-worker and competition sledder husband that makes the elites go bonkers.
She writes about her days on the bench of her high school basketball team, and her days as point guard when, as a senior her team won the state championship. And they did so with her playing hurt, persevering through the pain of a broken ankle. It was in that game, she writes, that her parents’ lessons on the payoff of hard work and perseverance finally registered with her. She called it a life-changing victory.
After high school Palin went to the University of Idaho. She dreamed of being a journalist—or more specifically a sports journalist—where she could put her passion for sports to good use. One of the issues pundits used to try and bash her was the fact that it took her five years to graduate. She writes that, yes, it took her five years because she paid her own way by working between semesters. Sometimes, she says, she had to take a whole semester off to earn enough to return to school.
No stranger to hard work—Palin began working with her boyfriend and later husband Todd catching salmon on the Bristol Bay fishing grounds. When the salmon fishing was slow she worked “messy, obscure seafood jobs, including long shifts on a stinky shore-based crab-processing vessel in Dutch Harbor” (the area made famous by the Discovery Channel show, Deadliest Catch).
One season, she writes, “I sliced open fish bellies, scraped out the eggs, and plopped the roe into packaging” where the company would slap a caviar label on the box and sell it to “elite consumers for loads of money” as a delicacy.
She got into politics in 1992 when a friend of hers recruited her to run for the Wasilla, Alaska City Council. She campaigned by going door-to-door while pulling her two children through the snow on a sled.
It was there that she learned about the common sense fiscal conservatism she now preaches. She battled the “progressives” on the council over issues like raising taxes and passing ordinances that would have granted special favors to those who were well-connected. In doing so she quickly fell out of favor with the friend who had recruited her and expected her to vote with him.
She took that same independence to the Alaska governor’s mansion years later, where she fought the Republican establishment over corruption and the oil industry over special drilling deals.
It was that independent spirit that attracted McCain. And though that was one of her main attributes, the decision makers in the McCain campaign stifled that through much of the presidential election and basically put her in a box.
Palin admits she made mistakes on the campaign trail. But she also points out where the handlers and decision makers in the campaign had her shackled when she had something to offer the team. And she criticizes the campaign for effectively throwing in the towel down the stretch when there was still—she believed—time to pull out a victory.
After the campaign Palin returned to Alaska where she was met with an avalanche of ethics complaints and freedom of information requests that threatened to bankrupt her and essentially brought Alaska’s governance to a standstill.
It was while fighting yet another of the partisan, unsubstantiated and finally refuted ethic complaints that she decided the state would be better served if she stepped down. That action, decried by the elites she had so bamboozled for the previous year, freed her up to begin speaking on issues and campaigning for people who believed in common sense fiscal conservatism.
Palin is an amazing person… an American like the majority of Americans… one not cut from the cloth of elitism but very much like you and me and our neighbors—average people.
That’s why elitists despise her so much. She’s like the people they so disdain, yet they fear her because she’s charismatic and popular and they know she will be an influential part of American politics for years to come.