Confessions of a Secret Sarah Admirer

I have a dirty little secret.

I really like Sarah Palin. It's kind of embarrassing, because I was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and because I live in a liberal bubble in Brooklyn, N.Y. I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but the more my friends and media colleagues attack Palin for being a lightweight or a hick or a lunatic, the more I like her.

I liked her the first time I saw a picture of her, nearly a year ago in this magazine. It illustrated a story about how women leaders like Palin and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano were gaining power at the state level. Palin, BlackBerry in one hand, Red Bull in the other, checked her messages as she crossed the street, seemingly oblivious to her youngest daughter, Piper, who trailed along behind her, jumping rope in the crosswalk. Now that's my kind of working mom, I thought.

I liked her even more after her speech at the Republican convention, and not just because she gave a masterful performance. I am riveted by her family and struck by what appears to be her complete confidence in the choices she's made. Women both liberal and conservative may be locked in combat about whether she went back to work too soon after Trig's birth or whether she should be making a run for national office when her teenage daughter is pregnant. But if Palin is agonizing about her decisions, it doesn't show.

Which does not mean that I would do what she did—or that I will vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, because like many former Hillary supporters, I would not step over Roe v. Wade to vote for anyone. I took a six-month maternity leave and I doubt I would run for national office if my daughter were pregnant. But as I watched Palin and her family on that stage, the way she embraced daughter Bristol and called Trig a perfectly beautiful boy, I liked what I saw. I found her lack of defensiveness admirable. And if I were nominated for the vice presidency, I would probably let my kids stay up way past their bedtimes, too.

I am aware that I am responding to carefully crafted political images. I actually know very little about Sarah Palin's ideology, and what I do know I don't like: the extreme anti-abortion stand, her belief that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution. In the next eight weeks any number of things could emerge that will turn me off completely.

But I can't help myself. I'd rather crack open a Red Bull and sit down with her than with Barack Obama. Likability counts in electoral politics—especially for voters who are on the fence. It worked for George W. I love the fact that she rose from the PTA to the governor's office as a self-described challenger to the boys' club. When I Googled "Palin and bitch," I expected to find an outpouring of misogyny to back up the idea that much of the criticism of her is sexist. Instead, I found dozens of references to a video called "Is McCain Palin's Bitch?" Her convention speech was ruthless, and she managed to beat Obama up without sounding shrill.

Maybe I am a sucker for a frontier myth, the narrative of a person who rises up in a frozen, faraway place by making her own rules. I don't meet many moose hunters in New York. She reminds me of the scrappy, snowmobile-riding people I knew when I was growing up in Minnesota. Palin even sounds like them, with her healthy respect for vowels. I love that her sister runs a service station. When I hear people say that she's "too state fair," it activates a vestigial chip on my shoulder. In the Ivy-choked, East Coast media establishment, I also have an unusual résumé: University of Minnesota, the five- year plan.

Then there are those guns. She has been likened to Annie Oakley, but she seems like a thoroughly modern ass-kicker, more Angelina Jolie as "Mrs. Smith," or Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor—just with a little more meat on her bones. Even the investigation into her alleged abuse of power as governor seems to raise her street cred. I mean, didn't her ex-brother-in-law Taser his 10-year-old stepson? Somehow I'm willing to forgive Palin for allegedly trying to have him fired. I think she may represent a new American archetype: the political bad girl. History books are full of charming rogues like Bill Clinton, Edwin Edwards and Huey Long—men who were so charismatic that audiences seemed to forgive them their trespasses.

But if I'm really honest with myself, I'm mostly just happy that there's another woman on the national political stage. I think it's good for my 8-year-old daughter, who has called Hillary Clinton her idol. She doesn't love Hillary because of her health-care policy or pro-choice stance: she loves Hillary because she thinks girls rule. The more powerful women there are on the national stage, the better it is for all women, because this is a game of numbers. When John Edwards destroys his political career by cheating on his wife, I don't believe people wring their hands about what it's going to mean for white guys. And when there are enough women in our political life, maybe we will be able to judge them as individuals, rather than representatives of all things uterine. Either way, I think we're going to have to get used to Sarah Palin. Because she might be the one to crash through that "highest, hardest glass ceiling," and not just because she has a gun.