Wasilla, Alaska, is currently the most famous small town in America, thanks to its former mayor Sarah Palin. A healthy part of her appeal is that she seems to embody small-town values, nurtured in Wasilla and America's other hamlets and burgs. As she said in her firecracker acceptance speech, small-town people live lives of "honesty, sincerity, and dignity" and "do some of the hardest work in America." Palin was tapping into a widespread belief that small-town America represents the country at large.
Charles Wohlforth, a lifelong Alaska Democrat and occasional TNR contributor, gives us the word on Palin from up north. I first met Sarah Palin just after she'd been elected mayor of the little town of Wasilla, Alaska, in October 1996. My first impression was that she didn't seem up to the job. I had written a Frommer's travel guidebook about Alaska (I live in Anchorage and was on the Municipal Assembly here at the time).