How many jokes about small-town Alaska have you heard this week? If you live in Democratic strongholds such as Sonoma County, I would bet you heard quite a few. I know I did. In locales where people imagine they are more sophisticated, it becomes easy to patronize people whose lifestyles are different.

Tonight, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, gave it back, speaking up for the people who live in small towns. This was a brilliant speech that exposed why Democrats keep losing elections in rural America, even when the issues favor the Democrats.

Democrats claim to be mystified by all this. But it isn’t complicated. One group of people shouldn’t expect to belittle another and then expect those folks to like them anyway.

Do Republicans use what they call the “Democrats’ elitism” to distract voters? Sure, they do. But it remains that Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, said one thing about rural voters when he was talking to supporters in San Francisco, and he said something else when he was campaigning in rural Pennsylvania.

If Democrats don’t want to be called elitists, maybe they need to stop being elitists. Otherwise, they shouldn’t be surprised that small-town Americans won’t listen to what the party’s candidates have to say.