Great Cooptations

Two politicians get conservative fundraisers’ juices flowing like no others.  One, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, was surely mourned as much by ambitious Richard Viguerie imitators as by teary-eyed, Camelot-addled liberals.  The other, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, they hope will be a gift that keeps on giving for many years to come.

Conservatives built a virtual cottage industry of Kennedy-mocking paraphernalia.  There were bumper stickers proclaiming, “My gun has killed fewer people than Ted Kennedy’s car.”  There were T-shirts identifying the wearer as a student at the “Ted Kennedy School of Swimming.”  No defense of Richard Nixon was complete without the phrase, “Nobody drowned in Watergate.”  And when the Chappaquiddick jokes finally grew tiresome, there was no end to the fun that could be had by ridiculing Kennedy’s improbable combination of corpulence and philandering.

Sarah Palin does not have any of the later-year Ted Kennedy’s problems with physical attractiveness.  After she burst onto the scene as John McCain’s running mate in the last election, she emerged as something of a sex symbol for middle-aged conservative men.  Her smiling, bespectacled face graced magazine covers.  The late-night television talk shows were filled with bawdy references to the vice-presidential candidate as a “hot” schoolteacher or...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here