From the Department of Visual Studies: If your life is colorful, your clothing need not be. This was the message conveyed by Sarah Palin and her family last night. By now, the salient, fascinating biographical details are familiar: working mother; five kids; pregnant 17-year-old; baby with Down Syndrome; revenge allegedly taken, mafia-style, on a deadbeat ex-brother in law. “Our family,” Palin said, addressing the chaos swirling around her with a disarming smile, “has the same ups and downs as any other.” And indeed, the Palins looked like any American family, clad in nondescript clothing in beige and black and various shades of Banana Republic grey. Has any planner of political conventions ever stopped to think that few Americans actually dress in blinding, acid-bright, “telegenic” colors? The teals and hot pinks of the Democratic National Convention would not fly at the factory, or on the fishing boat, or--let’s say--in the small town mayor’s office.

Palin, understated and neutral in dress if not in mien, brought with her a palpable atmosphere of folksy authenticity. This is what Barack Obama lacks, and Hillary Clinton strained for, and George W. Bush possesses in spades. Yet Palin did not have to light out for the territory to stage her realness,