When John McCain invited Sarah Palin to join his cause, he blindsided the press. But a campaign for her to be called to serve her country had been building its case for months.
The McCain camp was surely aware of Task Force Palin, the motley alliance of blogs and websites who spotted Palin's potential and then devoted themselves to spreading the word. I certainly was: I joined the "Draft Sarah Palin" Facebook group weeks ago. If the political press didn't notice, that may be because they no longer talk to anyone but themselves. An early complaint against Palin, a candidate they had refused to take seriously despite her acknowledged place on the Republican shortlist, was that she had never appeared on Meet the Press. Where else should they get their information from?
Yet the ordinary American citizens who encountered Sarah Palin recognised her charisma and promise immediately. According to The Times, Postman David Parcha told his teenagers to attend her inauguration as governor because "this was going to be historic". Listen to her phone-in interview on C-SPAN in February and you will hear callers saying they are Democrats but they would vote for her on a national ticket because her words touch their hearts. Such political alchemy is worth a dozen Mitt Romneys. Her father knows Sarah is special, too: he hasn't bested her in argument since she was two years old.
Palin speaks to America at a mythic level. She is not just a formidable politician: she is the American Dream personified. The life of "Sarah America" proves that the trek from log cabin to White House is still possible. She renews the promise of her nation just as much as Barack Obama - arguably more so, since she didn't have the benefit of an Ivy League education, and grew up on America's last true frontier. Many Americans feel represented by her in a profound way. Go to Zazzle.com and you'll find T-shirts for sale that say "I am Sarah Palin".
Sarah Palin is an ordinary citizen with a great gift for popular politics, and the people know it. The press keep arguing that Palin is a redneck bigot who can appeal only to Republican extremists. But out in the blogosphere, people are studying her opinions, thinking for themselves and giving endorsements that overturn that narrative, making the libertarian case for Palin.
If America's citizens helped bring Mrs Palin onto the Republican ticket, they now seem determined to carry her all the way to the Vice President's Mansion. As well as overturning the lies featured in the mainstream press, they are having fun as well. Palinfacts.com celebrates her potential with absurd hyperbole. "Sarah Palin is the reason compasses point North." Or as one geek twitters, "Sarah Palin doesn't have a favorite web framework. She is a web framework". The site is crude, sometimes crass, but it is a window on how America really feels about Palin, and it looks good for John McCain. Sarah's web army is still worth watching.