Say what you want, Palin is a 'real person'

You don't need a Gallup or Rasmussen poll to know that regular people on the street -- you, your family and your neighbors -- are disgusted with politics today. The treatment of Gov. Sarah Palin is Exhibit A to illustrate that point.

For the sake of this discussion, I'll stipulate that there are any number of things on which reasonable (yet misguided) people can disagree with Sarah Palin. But it's beyond reprehensible when people who may disagree with her or find her a threat to their world order, start calling her names that are not on her birth certificate. These people put forward an elitist attitude that says, "She's a small town mayor and a small state governor who didn't go to Harvard ..." This somehow makes her unworthy of our respect and of a leadership role in our great country?

This reeks of how elitist and biased people can be, and they justify it simply because they don't agree with her ideology. And these same people would, with a straight face, tell you they are open-minded.

Count me as one of the millions of Americans who was excited about John McCain's selection of Gov. Palin. And I wasn't particularly jazzed because I see her as the "most qualified" candidate. I don't really know if there is a "most qualified" prospect. No, what re-ignited my passions for this campaign is the simple fact that Sarah Palin -- an accomplished and honorable political leader -- comes to the process from a point that is as far away from Washington, D.C., as you can possibly be and still be an American.

When people like me refer to her as a "real person," it sends the media elite and the late night comic crowd into a frenzy precisely because she is not one of them.

So what if she doesn't read the Investor's Business Daily or Financial Times every day? She's a working mother, for cryin' out loud!

Sarah "Can I Call You Joe" Palin fits the national psyche and knows how her bread gets buttered. Just like you and your neighbors.

In that sense, she really reminds me of Ronald Reagan, whom "experts" and his political enemies tried to portray as "just a B actor."

But Reagan was self-assured enough to know that as long as the real folks bought the tickets and bought the popcorn and the Junior Mints, it didn't matter what the "experts" said.

Hailing from a small town should not be a disqualifier for anything. When you are the product of a very rural town, you learn to treat people as you would like to be treated.

I learned about hard work and sacrifice in a small town of 2,000 good people. As a sophomore in college, I didn't know a liberal from a conservative, but because of my small town upbringing, I did know what it was to mow my neighbor's yard when he was down on his back. I participated in church food poundings when a friend lost his job. I saw the women at church take care of a family of children when mom was in the hospital. I've seen common sense, selflessness and sacrifice played out on a daily basis in small towns.

Likewise, Sarah Palin knows what it means for people to come to the 20th of the month with more month than money left. You see that often in small towns.

Small town values bring an appreciation for the fact that there are still people out there who struggle every day.

I think Americans are looking for leaders who are really one of us. Not just products pre-packaged by D.C. consultants. We're looking for leaders who understand the challenges real people face every day -- the hockey moms and the band parents.

The truth is, should the voters choose to elevate John McCain and Sarah Palin, they will be able to buy D.C. policy wonks, foreign policy experts and finance gurus for a dime a dozen. But you can't buy good. You can't buy decency. And you can't buy the heart to understand what Mr. and Mrs. John Doe go through every week.

Sarah Palin has a special-needs child, and what that means to millions of parents who now know there will be someone in the White House who will listen to hear us -- not listen to respond to us -- means more than any campaign white paper could communicate.

I'm looking forward to the time when Republican, Democrat and media experts alike understand this. When that day comes, I surely believe it will make our political process more responsive to "we the people."

J.C. Watts ( is former chairman of the Republican Conference of the U.S. House, where he served as an Oklahoma representative from 1995 to 2002. His column appears twice monthly in the Review-Journal.