Sarah Palin continues to make waves -- and friends. And the antipathy to her among liberals is almost matched by the antipathy among those who think of themselves as movement conservatives or Republican insiders. Liberals' antipathy is understandable: she beats them like a drum. Conservatives' antipathy is harder to understand; yet, I had an insight about it.
Palin's reception mirrors nothing so much as the literary uproar that followed the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
in the 1950s. Elite literary opinion united in trashing Tolkien's work -- often without actually reading it. The modernist critics had succeeded in taking control of all "correct" literary opinion, just as they had wrested control of almost all schools and departments of English throughout the academic world over the "language" crowd -- Tolkien and the other philologists. That antipathy continues today, despite nobody-can-touch-this mass-market approval and sales for an author who has been dead now for 37 years.
But at the height of hobbit-mania back in the 1960s and '70s, some of those whom you would have thought to be Tolkien's greatest supporters would often say disparaging things behind their hands. Lin Carter was one of these. Those raised to value fantasy from a hard sci fi or pulp fiction background thought Tolkien was wonderful-in-spite-of-himself, but that they
represented the core of fantasy fiction writing. In effect, these fantasy and sci fi writers thought of themselves as a little elite, proudly preserving "popular" fiction against the big elite represented by The TLS
and Academia. And that's the point. They were a self-appointed elite, who felt threatened by Tolkien's raw appeal and unstoppable success.
So it is, in the world of politics, with Sarah Palin and her detractors. The Left hates her, but so do the old-time elites of the Right. The Righty elites damn her with faint praise, saying, "she's really not electable" and stuff like that, because they fear that she is. And any success by Sarah Palin would mean success in which they did not participate, and for which they are owed precisely ZILCH.
So, we'll see. But the next time some smooth "Conservative" writer tells you how Palin is already declining, how she's unelectable, how the moment has passed her by or she's damaged herself by some statement she's made or position she's taken, remember . . . so said the pre-Tolkien fantasists of his popularity. Me, I don't think we've seen the last of Sarah Palin.