But instead of protecting their precious advantage, [the Democrats] succumbed to a spasm of hatred and threw the vase, the crockery, the cutlery and the kitchen sink at an obscure politician from Alaska. For once, the postmodern theories so many of them were taught at university are a help to the rest of us. As a Christian, conservative anti-abortionist who proved her support for the Iraq War by sending her son to fight in it, Sarah Palin was 'the other' - the threatening alien presence they defined themselves against. They might have soberly examined her reputation as an opponent of political corruption to see if she was truly the reformer she claimed to be. They might have gently mocked her idiotic creationism, while carefully avoiding all discussion of the racist conspiracy theories of Barack Obama's church. But instead of following a measured strategy, they went berserk…Hatred is the most powerful emotion in politics. At present, American liberals are not fighting for an Obama presidency. I suspect that most have only the haziest idea of what it would mean for their country. The slogans that move their hearts and stir their souls are directed against their enemies: Bush, the neo-cons, the religious right. In this, American liberals are no different from the politically committed the world over…When a hate campaign goes wrong, however, disaster follows… when the politically committed go on a berserker you should listen for the sound of their own principles smacking them in the face.
Journalists who believe in women's equality should not spread sexual smears about a candidate, or snigger at her teenage daughter's pregnancy, or declare that a mother with a young family cannot hold down a responsible job for the pragmatic reason that they will look like gross hypocrites if they do. Before Palin, we saw hypocrisy of the right when shock jocks who had spent years denouncing feminism came over all politically correct when Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. In Britain, the most snobbish attacks on Margaret Thatcher did not come from aristocrats but from the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who opined that Thatcherism was the 'anarchism of the lower middle classes' and the liberal Jonathan Miller, who deplored her 'odious suburban gentility'….In an age when politics is choreographed, voters watch out for the moments when the public-relations facade breaks down and venom pours through the cracks. Their judgment is rarely favourable when it does. Barack Obama knows it. All last week, he was warning American liberals to stay away from the Palin family. He understands better than his supporters that it is not a politician's enemies who lose elections, but his friends.