Democrats and their allies in the media have done their level best to paint Sarah Palin as a radical conservative, a woman looking to impose her religious values on the nation.  Unfortunately, as USA Today reports in a front-page analysis of her record, they have missed the mark by a mile.  Palin has run Alaska in an inclusive, bipartisan manner while limiting her interventions on social issues.  She has focused on government reform, not religious revival, which explains her astronomical approval ratings in a famously individualistic state:

Weeks after taking office as Alaska’s governor in December 2006, Sarah Palin vetoed a bill that sought to ban benefits for the same-sex partners of state workers. It was unconstitutional, she said.

This year, she rebuffed religious conservatives who wanted her to add two abortion restriction measures to a special legislative session on oil and gas policy, even though she supported the bills. Former aide Larry Persily said she didn’t want to risk offending Democrats, whose votes she needed on energy legislation.

Since Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked Palin as his running mate, much attention has been focused on her deeply conservative social views — including her opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest and her attendance at a church that promotes the “transformation” of homosexuals through prayer.

But in her 21 months as governor, Palin has taken few steps to advance culturally conservative causes. Instead, after she knocked off an incumbent amid an influence-peddling scandal linked to the oil industry, Palin pursued a populist agenda that toughened ethics rules and raised taxes on oil and gas companies.

That doesn’t sound much like the portrait painted of Palin in the media for the last two weeks.  We actually reported on the increased taxes at Hot Air a month ago, when reporters apparently were too sold on their own cleverness to consider Palin a viable candidate for John McCain’s running mate.  Her efforts to reform government and to ensure that Alaskans got their share of their mineral wealth may not meet with conservative approval — I think it was a mistake — but she clearly had to curb the influence of the oil companies in government.  The Ted Stevens-Veco scandal proved at least that much.

Michael Reagan compared Palin to his father, and one can see at least some parallels with Ronald Reagan’s stewardship of California and of the nation here.  Reagan fought a larger war for conservatism but didn’t mind allying himself across the aisle when he could reduce governmental power.  He also gave tremendous personal support to religious values, but tended to shy away from government policies to impose them.

Now that the surprise of the Palin announcement has faded and journalists have recovered from being proven so hopelessly wrong on the veepstakes, we’re starting to see more balanced analysis of Palin’s track record.  Unlike her opponents in this race, Palin has worked hard to create a “post-partisan” government model in Alaska, based on truly shared interests in reform.  She has projected her values without radicalizing government to prove them.

Palin isn’t the frightening spectre her critics have claimed … and that makes her even more dangerous to them.