When the historians take on this election, years into the future, or perhaps it will only take till next year when the reporters go on leave to write their books, they will discover that the signal issue in this election was not, as we all thought, either race or gender.
In the primaries, when we had a white woman senator from New York facing off against a Black male senator from Chicago, it was race and gender (and whether Obama is from Kansas, Hawaii, or Indonesia, he came into this election from Chicago).
But now, with the entrance of the white woman governor from Alaska, the issue has shifted--as I believe the issue has truly shifted in our country, as identity politics fades away into economic politics--to class, and, in particular, to class as mapped across the urban/rural divide which, in the last election, was the truest indicator of voter preferences (you could also call it, and somebody recently has, though I can't remember who, the cosmopolitan/local divide, which is easy to frame as hierarchical, though it really isn't) (and yes, I mean class in the complicated culture/education/career way, not simply the financial way--yikes, maybe I'm turning into David Brooks).
Race still matters, gender still matters (I'm still not David Brooks), but despite McCain's apparent belief to the contrary, he has a lot more in common with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama than he does with Sarah Palin (and Bill Clinton has a lot more in common with Sarah Palin).
This is where liberal bloviators risk digging us so deep we lose an election we should by all rights be winning. The Palins are like a whole lot of American families, probably a whole lot more American families than the Obamas are (and I say that as someone whose family is a lot like the Obamas--I'm guessing my girls' bookshelves look a lot like Malia and Sasha's, and I'm guessing all their bookshelves are a lot bigger than most--but also as someone who spent eight years right smack in the middle of the heartland, with a lot of families who look just like the Palins). And while I do believe that a lot of people will vote their policies not their identities in the coming election, at a certain point, if your identity is being battered, you can't help but want to stand up for it.
Which is why things like this and this, from the heart of the liberal elite (one definitively, and one I'm just assuming), are so completely counterproductive.
The Republicans are doing it to themselves this time around. Let's just sit back and let them do it, without putting ourselves in the position of appearing to be to blame. Argue that McCain's terrible vetting of Sarah Palin shows his bad judgement, argue that Palin flip-flopped on the Bridge to Nowhere, argue that abstinence education does not work and the vice president of a 72-year-old president should have more foreign policy experience than living across the sea from Russia, read this, but leave lifestyle and cultural politics out of it.
Edited to add: Bob Herbert, I'd definitely rather be Bob Herbert than David Brooks.