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America Is Exceptional, And So Can You

Blake and Shay Johnson of Reno were even more plain-spoken [about Palin].

“She’s an American,” said Blake. ~The Politico

That’s a stroke of luck.  Here I had been thinking all along that she was Canadian. 

Palin’s first campaign destination on her own was there in Nevada, and it seems that each of her public appearances is going to be pretty much like the last:

Palin, greeted by chants of “Sarah, Sarah,” spoke to about 3,500 people for about 20 minutes. She was interrupted frequently by cheers and applause. And she led the audience in the now-familiar refrain: “Drill, baby, drill.”

In addition to showcasing this profound understanding of energy policy, there was this:

In her remarks, Palin delivered several feel-good lines: “America is an exceptional country and you are all exceptional Americans.”

It is remarkable that Palin, whose popularity is rooted firmly in her ordinariness and the perception that she is a normal, common American (indeed, one of the people in the Carson City crowd praises her for her common background), has adopted this sort of language.  If everyone in her audience is an exceptional American, being exceptional becomes the new norm, in which case all attempts to make distinctions between the normal and abnormal, the regular and the exceptional, become useless.  This is very close to the modern self-esteem cult’s false proposition that everyone is a winner.  If Obama uttered such saccharine nonsense, he would be mocked for months for his drippy, feel-good sentimentality. 

Chesterton once identified “the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal,” which might be a good shorthand description for what McCain is doing to Palin by adding her to the Republican ticket.  Now it would seem that a generally normal person, Palin, is employing language that empties the words normal and exceptional of their basic meanings in a way that undermines the core of her own popular appeal.

P.S. Apparently, there are people who think Palin is from Canada:

Karen Porter, an economically hard-pressed longtime waitress at Paul’s (“I used to be on a beer budget, now I’m on a bus budget”), would be what political scientists call a “low-information voter,” if only she were registered. Attracted to Obama (“I think he really cares about people in the middle class”), Porter is tempted to vote for the first time. When asked about his Republican rival, Porter said, “I don’t know much about McCain. I hear a lot about his vice president. What’s her name? The one from Canada.”

Weep for the future.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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