What's a voter to make of Sarah Palin?
She appeared dramatically on the scene like a cheerleader bursting through the team banner, full of spunk and ready to cheer her quarterback on to victory. Press and pundits alike applauded her as being charming, confident and earnest.
But over the past several weeks we've found to our dismay, if not our surprise, that this "pitbull with lipstick" is, in fact, still a pup when it comes to navigating the national political landscape. Democrats snicker. Republicans hold their breath.
One conservative columnist described watching her interviews "with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful."
Yet despite the ever-increasing pain of watching her bumble her way through the campaign, a faithful contingent of believers still clings to the notion that the Alaska governor is somehow qualified to serve as vice president of the United States.
In light of the countless crises that currently face our country, how is this possible? The answer, unfortunately, is rather simple: "We have met the enemy, and she is us."
The problem isn't Sarah Palin the candidate. The problem is the American culture that has unknowingly embraced "Palin-ness" for decades, only to discover now in the 11th hour the high price of our collective incompetence.
We've charmed, pushed and leapfrogged our way into houses we couldn't afford and investments we couldn't make good on. We've supported wars in countries we didn't understand for reasons that we never bothered to question.
For us to now deny Palin the chance to stand alongside the president is, in fact, to acknowledge all the things that we as an American people weren't ready for, weren't qualified for and had no business getting involved with in the first place. She is us.
Sarah Palin isn't a bad person, any more than we as Americans are a bad people. We weren't bad for wanting a better life, a bigger home, a few extra purchases on the credit card. We weren't bad for wanting that IPO to pay out in triple digits or having our 401(k) set us up for a fantasy retirement in Boca. But wanting and cramming doesn't mean you've earned the degree.
No matter how fortunate the opportunity being presented to Palin may seem, geographical proximity to Russia doesn't equal foreign policy readiness any more than being sequestered and prepped by strategists and campaign aides prepares you to lead a country during one of the most volatile periods in the nation's history.
As a result of our long-held cultural paradigm of Palin-ness, the American people are facing unprecedented payback on literally every front imaginable. From housing to credit, we've failed to manage ourselves on just about every level possible. Are we really so self-absorbed and arrogant as to believe that we can fix all that has been broken by putting "one of our own" into the White House?
Our country doesn't need leadership that exemplifies the very characteristics and flaws we are hoping to overcome. We need leadership that will hold us accountable for the mistakes we've made and then show us a new path toward a better and wiser way of living. It's time for leadership that will show us how to balance our ambition with knowledge, training and experience.
Few things are more American than wanting a big new house. It's time, however, for all of us to accept that the mortgage on that White House on Pennsylvania Avenue is far beyond Gov. Palin's means.
* DANIEL PATTERSON is a business owner in Salt Lake City.