In the shadow of the blatant and truly stunning sexism launched against the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign, and as a pro-choice feminist, I wasn’t the only one thrilled to hear Republican John McCain announce Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. For the GOP, she bridges for conservatives and independents what I term “the enthusiasm gap” for the ticket. For Democrats, she offers something even more compelling – a chance to vote for a someone who is her own woman, and who represents a party that, while we don’t agree on all the issues, at least respects women enough to take them seriously.
Whether we have a D, R or an “i for independent” after our names, women share a different life experience from men, and we bring that difference to the choices we make and the decisions we come to. Having a woman in the White House, and not as The Spouse, is a change whose time has come, despite the fact that some Democratic Party leaders have decided otherwise. But with the Palin nomination, maybe they’ll realize it’s not up to them any longer.
Clinton voters, in particular, have received a political wake-up call they never expected. Having watched their candidate and their principles betrayed by the very people who are supposed to be the flame-holders for equal rights and fairness, they now look across the aisle and see a woman who represents everything the feminist movement claimed it stood for. Women can have a family and a career. We can be whatever we choose, on our own terms. For some, that might mean shooting a moose. For others, perhaps it’s about shooting a movie or shooting for a career as a teacher. However diverse our passions, we will vote for a system that allows us to make the choices that best suit us. It’s that simple.
The rank bullying of the Clinton candidacy during the primary season has the distinction of simply being the first revelation of how misogynistic the party has become. The media led the assault, then the Obama campaign continued it. Trailblazer Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first Democratic vice presidential candidate, was so taken aback by the attacks that she publicly decried nominee Barack Obama as “terribly sexist” and openly criticized party chairman Howard Dean for his remarkable silence on the obvious sexism.
Concerned feminists noted, among other thinly veiled sexist remarks during the campaign, Obama quipping, “I understand that Sen. Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal,” and Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen in a television interview comparing Clinton to a spurned lover-turned-stalker in the film, “Fatal Attraction,” noting, “Glenn Close should have stayed in that tub, and Sen. Clinton has had a remarkable career…”. These attitudes, and more, define the tenor of the party leadership, and sent a message to the grassroots and media that it was “Bros Before Hoes,” to quote a popular Obama-supporter T-shirt.
The campaign’s chauvinistic attitude was reflected in the even more condescending Democratic National Convention. There, the Obama camp made it clear it thought a Super Special Women’s Night would be enough to quell the fervent support of the woman who had virtually tied him with votes and was on his heels with pledged delegates.
There was a lot of pandering and lip service to women’s rights, and evenings filled with anecdotes of how so many have been kept from achieving their dreams, or failed to be promoted, simply because they were women. Clinton’s “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” were mentioned a heck of a lot. More people began to wonder, though, how many cracks does it take to break the thing?
Ironically, all this at an event that was negotiated and twisted at every turn in an astounding effort not to promote a woman.
Virtually moments after the GOP announcement of Palin for vice president, pundits on both sides of the aisle began to wonder if Clinton supporters – pro-choice women and gays to be specific – would be attracted to the McCain-Palin ticket. The answer is, of course. There is a point where all of our issues, including abortion rights, are made safer not only if the people we vote for agree with us – but when those people and our society embrace a respect for women and promote policies that increase our personal wealth, power and political influence.
Make no mistake – the Democratic Party and its nominee have created the powerhouse that is Sarah Palin, and the party’s increased attacks on her (and even on her daughter) reflect that panic.
The party has moved from taking the female vote for granted to outright contempt for women. That’s why Palin represents the most serious conservative threat ever to the modern liberal claim on issues of cultural and social superiority. Why? Because men and women who never before would have considered voting for a Republican have either decided, or are seriously considering, doing so.
They are deciding women’s rights must be more than a slogan and actually belong to every woman, not just the sort approved of by left-wing special interest groups.
Palin’s candidacy brings both figurative and literal feminist change. The simple act of thinking outside the liberal box, which has insisted for generations that only liberals and Democrats can be trusted on issues of import to women, is the political equivalent of a nuclear explosion.
The idea of feminists willing to look to the right changes not only electoral politics, but will put more women in power at lightning speed as we move from being taken for granted to being pursued, nominated and appointed and ultimately, sworn in.
It should be no surprise that the Democratic response to the McCain-Palin ticket was to immediately attack by playing the liberal trump card that keeps Democrats in line – the abortion card – where the party daily tells restless feminists the other side is going to police their wombs.
The power of that accusation is interesting, coming from the Democrats – a group that just told the world that if you have ovaries, then you don’t count.
Yes, both McCain and Palin identify as anti-abortion, but neither has led a political life with that belief, or their other religious principles, as their signature issue. Politicians act on their passions – the passion of McCain and Palin is reform. In her time in office, Palin’s focus has not been to kick the gays and make abortion illegal; it has been to kick the corrupt and make wasteful spending illegal. The Republicans are now making direct appeals to Clinton supporters, knowingly crafting a political base that would include pro-choice voters.
On the day McCain announced her selection as his running mate, Palin thanked Clinton and Ferraro for blazing her trail. A day later, Ferraro noted her shock at Palin’s comment. You see, none of her peers, no one, had ever publicly thanked her in the 24 years since her historic run for the White House. Ferraro has since refused to divulge for whom she’s voting. Many more now are realizing that it does indeed take a woman – who happens to be a Republican named Sarah Palin.
This article first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.
This is an election that will be decided by identity politics more so than any other Presidential race since the election of Kennedy. Obama will more than likely get upwards of 95% of the Black vote. Much of it simply because of his race. But how will Palin play into this? How many cross party votes will she bring based upon her gender. How many women will vote for her based on gender. How many men? Will this affect Black women enough for them to vote with their gender? Will Black women seek to elevate a woman as opposed to a Black male.
If the McCain/Pallin ticket wins, she is the likely candidate for 2012 as McCain has stated that he will run for office one time. At his age, I don’t think he was using the line as a soundbite.