America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag Sarah Palin, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag (New York: Harper, 2010), 304 pp., $25.99.
Sarah Palin, Going Rogue: An American Life (New York: Harper, 2009), 432 pp., $28.99.
IN HIS novel The American Senator, Anthony Trollope has Elias Gotobed visit England to study its institutions. Senator Gotobed, an apostle of the wisdom of the common man, soon expresses his consternation at the feudal power and prerogatives, the arrogance and presumption, of the nobility. He informs a British acquaintance that his country is stuck in the past:
The spirit of conservatism in this country is so strong that you cannot bear to part with a shred of the barbarism of the Middle Ages. And when a rag is sent to the winds you shriek with agony at the disruption, and think that the wound will be mortal.
It’s a sentiment that American conservatives have always grappled with uneasily. In the past century, the Right has wavered between Burkean conservatism on the one hand and fiery populism on the other. But whether one traces its origins back to Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, who loathed cities and venerated rural life, or argues that it is of a slightly more recent Jacksonian vintage, a militant populism—God-fearing folk carrying the mantle of American exceptionalism—has become a potent feature of America’s political landscape.
Going Rogue: An American Life Indeed, an insurrectionary trend—the attempt in fact to overthrow the regnant liberal ruling class—began to take hold in the early 1950s with the Joseph McCarthy–led revolt against intellectual elites and establishment Republicans. Too much too soon perhaps—too indebted, above all, to the bilious McCarthy—it never gained the necessary traction.