In the beginning, over there where you can see Russia, there was former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska). And now there is Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). What I saw in the now-famous campaign clip for her Senate run in Iowa — in which she promised to "make them squeal" in Washington and said her Washington skills would include castrating pigs — was confidence and fearlessness. It was a clever ad, and amusing. But with the kind of heartland self-assurance and righteous country confidence that you find in a mountain preacher like Billy Graham or in Johnny Cash and June and Mother Carter: We don't care what they say on Letterman or Jimmy Fallon, it tells you. We are not afraid. They won't get it in Europe or Asia. It belongs to us exclusively.
Had there been no Sarah Palin, there would now be no Joni Ernst. It is second-generation Sarah Palin, and Palin created — mastered — the political genre. But as Palin brought an earthy challenge to the "establishment," roughly meaning Washington and New York and Hollywood (you could include academia), she likewise defined herself in opposition to it. In that regard, she actually reimagined America as East and West, much as Andrew Jackson did, declaring, in effect, that this is where the challenges lie ahead for America. As population and economy move west of the Mississippi, the demographics bear her out.
This new generation busting out with Ernst is more self-confident than aggressive. It is America talking to its own now in the middle and the middle is large.
"If Nebraska's [Sen.] Deb FischerDeb FischerLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal GOP rep scolds Gillibrand for tearing into Marine general over nude-photo scandal MORE [R] can see through the bull in Washington, then Iowa's Joni Ernst can help her cut through the pork," Palin wrote on Facebook, The Washington Post reports.
What happens now that Palin has endorsed Ernst is pivotal. When she endorsed Nikki Haley (R) for governor of South Carolina, Haley skyrocketed in the polls and advanced to easy victory. Worth noting, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) endorsed Haley as well and has also endorsed Ernst. But does Palin still have the chops?
My guess is yes. If so, Ernst will be heading to the Senate in November.
Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.