Don’t give up on potentially great leaders

A majority of the e-mails that hit my inbox this week expressed disheartened sentiments over Scott Brown’s decision to help advance the Senate’s jobs bill. While my readers were primarily focused on what so many of them referred to as Brown’s “betrayal” of their hard work to help him get elected, their disgust with politicians in general was a close second.

One question I was asked by many was ‘Have you lost hope in everyone?’ While I fully comprehend their apprehension regarding candidates’ promises, I responded to one reader in particular with this: No. I’ve seen too much rugged Americanism in people like you—people who inspire me every day—to have lost hope in everyone.

I meant every word.

The truth is that I’ve said time and again that Washington is a powerful machine. After Scott Brown’s win, I voiced that it would be wonderful for a politician to head to Washington and retain his or her ideals in the process. I didn’t know if Brown could be that guy. But I don’t doubt that people of that moral caliber exist. That integrity, that sense of loyalty to one’s ethics, that “say what you mean and mean what you say” fabric runs through so many of the people who email me every day. Maybe some of them will choose to run for office and shake up the establishment a bit. Regardless, that fabric I admire is a human one. It may be scarce—and I believe that it is—but it’s alive and well.

The concerns that near unanimously followed readers’ initial question were about Sarah Palin. Many are terrified to stand up for her. They’ve spent months believing she’s different. They’ve treasured her rejection of elitism and her ability to plow through media attacks with a steady commitment to her values. They’ve seen her take on her party in Alaska, watched her write notes on her hand just like they do, and loved the fact that she has the ability to laugh at herself, a most welcome down to earth trait that could never coexist with arrogance. But they’re scared. Throwing your support—and hard-earned cash—behind people because of what they say, and having your faith in them thrown back in your face by virtue of what they do, is hard to take. I understand their every concern.

My readers have asked me to answer one simple question: ‘Do you think she’s just like the rest of them?’ My answer is no.

In my gut, I don’t think Sarah Palin is “just like the rest of them.” I can’t predict the future and I don’t know her personally. But I’ve listened to her speeches and her commentary. I’ve researched her record. And I’ve read her book. I spent hours interviewing many of her fans who were lined up outside her Rochester book signing. I hoped to get a sense of the Sarah Palin they believed made a night of sleeping in portable tents on concrete worthwhile. I also had the chance to speak with Palin briefly and tell her why I was there. I saw the gratitude in her eyes for what I had done. I could tell right away that those people who slept outside were valuable to her. Not because they could likely add up to future votes or hefty PAC donations, but because they believe in her. I have no doubt that she believes in them.