Sarah Palin

Well, when we all went to bed on Thursday night, we didn’t dream that we’d be thinking and talking about the Governor of Alaska all day Friday now, did we?  Maybe the McCain campaign has more chops than Democrats would like to believe.

Palin’s biography and career seem to be tailor-made for the McCain campaign.  Western state governor?  Check.  “Family values” conservative?  Check.  Lifelong NRA member?  Check.  Washington outsider?  Check.  Appealing family?  Check.  Not a millionaire?  Check.  Regular joe husband?  Check.  Looks good in Camo and eats what she kills?  Check.  Reinforces McCain’s “Maverick” image?  Check.  Reputation as a reformer?  Check.  Proves Historiann’s point about how great Republicans are at using biography to drive a campaign narrative?  Check. 

Ability to drive so-called “liberals” crazy and expose the misogyny that drives so-called “progressive” politics?  Check! 

Never mind that several of the men bandied about as possible VP picks had no more experience than Palin, and we never heard what a totally ridiculous choice other first-term governors like Tim Kaine, Charlie Christ, or Bobby Jindal would be.  (No–youth and relative inexperience in a male candidates make them “bold” choices about “change” and “the future!”)  So-called “liberals” like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher immediately started yukking it up about her “beauty pageant” experience.  So-called “progressive” women in the media are at it, too:  I made the mistake of flicking past the Randi Rhoads show this Friday afternoon just in time to hear her go after Palin in the same demeaning language that she used during the primary when speaking about Hillary Clinton, and apparently Stephanie Miller called Palin a “bimbo.”  (And you don’t even want to know what the boyz on teh “liberal” blogs are saying.)  Never mind that Palin ran against a sitting governor in her own party (Frank Murkowski), beat him in the primary, and then beat a former Democratic governor in the general in 2006.  Say what you will about her policies and her stand on the issues, but the girl knows what she’s doing.  As this commenter said at TalkLeft, “Yes, women are either too old, too status quo, or too young. A guy is either seasoned, or a bold and fresh choice.”  See how easy that is!  We can always find a reason to hate on women politicians and hold them to impossible standards, but it’s so easy to forgive a man any perceived vulnerabilities.  (Remember all of those pious insistences from all of your incredibly liberal, well-meaning, and totally feminist friends that “I would love a woman president, just not this one,” ?)

Don’t get me wrong:  I won’t vote for McCain/Palin, and I’m pretty darned sure the vast majority of liberal feminists won’t either, because we think Palin is wrong on the issues.  But the choice of Palin isn’t really about picking up votes from people like me, it’s about 1) shoring up the cultural conservatives in the Republican base, and 2) reaching out to independent and moderate Republican women, who were appalled at the way that Hillary Clinton was savaged by the media and her own party, and 3) possibly depressing the Democratic women’s vote.  If Palin does reasonably well and avoids making any obvious gaffes, she could really help McCain.  (James Dobson climbed up on his Unity Pony, and that ain’t hay.)  I had coffee yesterday  Thursday with a Republican friend who couldn’t believe that Obama didn’t pick Clinton for VP.  “He would have won in a landslide if he had,” she said, and an e-mail from her today Friday sounds like she’s paying close attention to Sarah Palin.  Another friend, a Republican who’s become disgusted by her party in the Bush years, sat in my office today Friday and told me that she’s giving the McCain ticket a serious look because she likes the notion of a Westerner and a hunter as a VP.  And there’s no question but that Palin’s stance as a tough working mother appeals to me and my friends, across partisan lines.

So, go ahead Democrats and the Obama campaign, and make fun of Sarah Palin.  Mock her for her supposed inexperience and small-town background.  Make fun of her because she was in a beauty pageant.  Demean her because she’s the governor of Alaska, and not a more populous state.  (A lot of people in the large square states take that kinda personally, and I thought you were looking for votes out here.  Besides:  Delaware?)  Democrats have gotten really good at not taking their opponents seriously and acting superior to them.  Any fool could see how completely superior Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry were to their opponents!  But guess what we’re not so good at?  Winning presidential elections.  Go ahead and have a laugh–you can cry in November when you realize that the voters never thought you were laughing about Sarah Palin–they think you’re laughing at them!

NOTE:  Edited slightly to clarify the timeline–when I wrote this post, sleepless in the middle of the night, I was still thinking of Friday as “today,” when of course it was very early Saturday morning.

0 thoughts on “Sarah Palin

  1. Thank you for your gracious reply!

    Yes, the media is ridiculously tone-deaf. I can’t stand them, but unfortunately the company break-room is perpetually on MSNBC. But it was fun to watch their total, demoralized, panic.

    About mentioning her sex – I’ve found that the universal, unconditional acclimation Palin received from the Right has had particular resonance with women’s activists. As if to say, finally, genuine respect. If I may be a salesman for a bit, I believe we have the conservative emphasis on individual achievement and merit to thank for that. Palin took on the Republican Alaska establishment and rose to the governorship totally unassisted. The roaring applause she got comes from a recognition of those achievements. That conservatives issue such approval so sparingly gives it more meaning.

    Her sex obviously mattered – just as being attractive and likable matter – but, as you say, it’s only one of a laundry list of items.

    Now, Bill Clinton…well, I wonder if he would have been elected had Ross Perot not been around…but I’d rather not nitpick. But yes, authenticity.

    Now for an unrelated question – do you distinguish between “sex” and “gender”? I ask because most people use “gender”, due to a Puritanical allergy to the word “sex”, but you did not.


  2. The sex/gender split is one that would take us deep into the weeds of feminist theory…I use sex when I mean someone’s apparent chromosomes (XX or XY) and cringe when I hear people misuse the more complicated term of gender incorrectly. (Such as, “what is the baby’s gender?” Ick.) Maybe one reason people use “gender” now more too because they think that sex = sexuality, as you say, which is a related but different concept. For some reason, people percieve the word “gender” as softer and less threatening, which if you follow feminist and queer theory is not. (But, you probably don’t!)

    I have to hand it to McCain and the Republicans: they’ve laid a tremendous trap for the Dems, which the Dems seem to be falling right into with these juvenille, disgusting attacks on Palin. See Zuzu’s “Doing Karl Rove’s Work for Him” at Shakesville, another feminist blog, for the analysis.


  3. I see…I normally don’t make a distinction between the two words in my everyday writing, but I sensed that you did. Glad to see I was right! I don’t follow feminist theory, but I can see how distinguishing between gender and sex is necessary, for obvious reasons.

    Thanks for the link, Zuzu’s analysis is very astute. But I have to say, Republicans are not as diabolically cunning as she makes them out to be. This wasn’t planned out. Democrats are used to being able to get away with sexist and racist comments that Republicans would be crucified for. Remember Biden’s “clean and articulate” comment? Not a word from the media now – the media covers for them. But when Democrats start turning the guns on each other, it becomes instantly clear who the media favors. The Obama camp can unload on Clinton, and now Palin, with no consequence. That someone like Palin could exist is an affront to many liberal groups – she is a walking contradiction to them. Like Condi Rice. Like Clarence Thomas. Race-traitor, sexist collaborator, et cetera. These liberal groups then go supernova with rage and spill their bile nationwide. They are accustomed to getting away with it.

    Republicans are used to this. There was no need to plan for this. This is as natural as gravity. Karl Rove? No, common sense.

    Gandhi once said, the problem with Christianity are the Christians. A similar situation exists for me and the Obama Left. They are simultaneously arrogant and juvenile, and I just can’t take the Democratic party seriously. There are no adults. That leaves me with the Republican party, warts and all.


  4. Shinhao Li, your analysis of the Dems is one that many Dems share this year! It grieves many of us that many others within the party fail to walk the walk on our ideological commitments to anti-sexism and anti-racism. There’s a big book to be written about class bias and the sliming of Bill and Hillary Clinton by their own party and the Washington establishment. Despite their official commitments to the poor and working class, Democrats have royalist tendencies (Roosevelts, Kennedys) and have treated their non-aristocratic presidents and presidential hopefuls with disdain (the Clintons, and more recently, John Edwards perhaps.)

    And you’re right: the Dem circular firing squad ends up doing at least 75% of the work for the Republicans, so they don’t need to engage in diabolical machinations, they can just make the popcorn and enjoy the show!


  5. Pingback: Palin, polls, and election follow-up : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  6. The ‘SCLM’ enables them. When they’ve been able to call Bush as Hitler, soldiers as rapists and child-killers (Haditha? Never actually happened…), and just about whatever comes to mind, for eight years, it warps their minds. They have a have a functional Tourette syndrome – they have gotten used to saying whatever they wanted, and now they are unable to control what they say, it just flows out of the primal recesses of their psyches. They may clothe their rhetoric with logic, but underneath there is only naked animal rage.

    Even today – the Kos left absurdly accuses Palin’s fifth child of actually being her granddaughter. And we have that ridiculous “troopergate” ethics investigation. This is classic rope-a-dope. McCain will wait for the these stories to foam up a bit, hit a few news cycles before counterattacking. If you know anything about the troopergate story, you know she is not the bad guy. The trooper in question drank on the job, and used a service weapon (taser) on his own child. He was using Palin’s conflict-of-interest as a way to keep himself from being fired! Palin will be a hero to all domestically-abused women after this story breaks.

    The Democrats (at least the Obama camp) cannot execute strategy. When you watch the media, what you are actually watching is the Obama camp thinking out-loud to itself. Within literally seconds of the Palin pick, they were giving the Obama attack. They only grudgingly cover Republican counter-attacks, after they have been spoken. This is a blessing in disguise. The Democrats have a fawning, breathless media to satiate, like a puppy begging for attention while you try to read. It certainly doesn’t help when Obama campaign staff are contemplating future careers as CNN and MSNBC “analysts”. News-leak city. Republicans have the luxury to wait, think, and time their moves.

    McCain keep his VP pick secret, then reveals it at the time and place of his choosing for maximal effect. Obama belatedly sends a text message at 3AM.

    You guys have to distance yourselves from the media. America utterly despises the media.

    Let me finish by saying, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, most left-wing blogs are not nearly as hospitable. Thank you so much.


  7. Shinhao Li, I agree with you that Dems are making the same dumb mistake in thinking the media are their friends. Running against the media–while infiltrating and setting up a mirror right-wing media establishment–is one of the best strategies that the Republicans have rolled out in the last 40 years…

    Have a good Labor Day!


  8. Yes, Shinhao Li, Historiann is a very hospitable host when it comes to her blog, but I have to say, as a reader, I’m offended by your two most recent posts, which cross the line. If you appreciate the opportunity to engage in the discussion, as you suggest you do, perhaps you should consider your audience and leave aside the inaccurate, hostile, and over the top rants. They really don’t do much to further the conversation.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to point out all of the inaccuracies or unfounded attacks you levy above, they are so numerous…and transparent.


  9. Hi ej:

    Yes, you’re right – after re-reading, my tone was inappropriate, particularly given the audience. I apologize.

    Please understand that my frustration was meant to be directed at the media, which does no favors for American democracy – I stand by my statements, which I believe to be factually correct (well, except for “no adults”).

    The points I wanted to make were:

    1. The media is not nearly as critical of their favored Democratic politicians as everyone else. This gives these favored groups the latitude to make sexist and racist comments without consequence, to their public detriment.

    2. The media seeks to help the Obama campaign by instantly responding to perceived attacks. This actually robs the Obama campaign of strategic latitude.

    3. Due to the media environment, the current Democratic party is characterized by juvenile political attacks, often with racist or sexist components, for short-term advantage, with no thought to to long-term strategy.

    Please note this has nothing to do with policy – nowhere do I criticize proposed Democratic policy. This is about campaign conduct.


  10. Whoa, ej: Shinhao Li identified hirself as a Republican, so people can take hir comment’s for what they’re worth. (Clearly partisan, but so are the rest of us.) Moreover ze didn’t engage in any personal attacks on anyone here, so I don’t read any of the comments as violating this blog’s policies.

    I don’t necessarily point out everything that I disagree with in everyone’s posts. I strive to find common ground usually–and don’t fact-check absolutely everything.


  11. The supposedly liberal blogosphere is looking just terrific (snark) right now, the Palin family having been forced into announcing the pregnancy and impending marriage of their 17-year old daughter, Bristol. I am disgusted with them all – now, their misogyny has led to them falling into their own trap. If it weren’t for the pain and embarassment caused to Palin’s daughter and very young future husband and his family, I’d laugh.


  12. I guess I took offense to hearing the Obama campaign, and by implication their supporters, as “simultaneously juvenile and arrogant.” Plus even if the media is the target here, the implication is that they are in bed with the Obama campaign. When the two are conflated, the accusations can be read as offensive.

    There have actually recently been some studies done about the Media’s treatment of both candidates-the one at George Mason comes to mind. Not surprisingly, Obama has received a disproportionate share of the coverage. Perhaps surprisingly, an equally large percentage has been negative.

    I think if you read anything from the campaign (which cannot be automatically conflated with the “liberal media’) you will see a lot of complaints about their treatment in the media. I don’t think they consider them their friends, but rather much more critical of Obama than then are of McCain.

    Perhaps my key point here is that the media generally described, including liberal blogs, is not the same as the campaign. The campaign often takes very different positions.


  13. ej, many Obama supporters have been consistently “juvenille and arrogant,” and many of them appear to be determined to remain so, given the obnoxious attacks on Sarah Palin and her family. (Have you read Americablog, Talking Points Memo, and DailyKos lately? Please consider what you would think if there were a liberal democratic woman and her family under this kind of attack by right-wing blogs.)

    Like it or not, this behavior affects the way people see the candidate. (Remember how most of us on the left reacted to the knee-jerk jingoism, chest-thumping, and triumphalilsm of Bush partisans back in 2002-03, when our splendid little wars looked like they were going well?) Many people–some of them lifelong Dems who have been active in the party–are really stunned and don’t know how they’ll vote yet, because they don’t want to be affiliated with jerks and they don’t want to reward jerky behavior.

    And, the SCLM aren’t liberal, although the cheerleading for Obama by everyone over at MiSogNyBC has been undeniable (by everyone but Joe Scarborough).

    Hubris is an attitude Dems should steer clear of.


  14. I am well aware that some liberal blogs are behaving badly, but my point is that many aren’t (see Talk Left, which forbids any discussion of Palin’s personal life) and more importantly, the Obama campaign has been firmly against any discussion of these matters. I totally agree with you that sexist and personal attacks have no place in a political campaign, especially as a Democrat, whose party has been the target of them for so long. All I’m trying to do is encourage more careful language. Not all democrats are involved, and the whole party cannot control or be held responsible for what some blogs are saying. And phrases like “liberal media” suggest a uniformity of behavior that isn’t deserved.


  15. Ej:

    Well, this is a tough topic to broach, since we are obviously on different sides. I am confusing the media, the Obama campaign, and Obama supporters to some degree, I admit.

    Let me put it this way. I perceive a liberal media bias, although the media can certainly unfairly portray Democrats. The Clinton sex scandals, for example, where the media and the Republicans were both atrocious. But when even Bill Maher is embarrassed by the media coverage of Obama, that is saying something.

    As I state previously, I believe this media coverage affects the way the Obama campaign acts. And I believe this encourages this juvenile/arrogant behavior, for the reasons stated previously.

    And certainly, some of Obama’s supporters, taking their cue from the media and the campaign, have proceeded to attack Clinton and now McCain/Palin with wanton abandon. I apologize if I had previously implied or given the impression that I meant all Obama supporters.

    The three elements (media, campaign, supporters) are linked and I am criticizing the behavior of all three. The only reason I am expending energy criticizing them is because I am seeking to explain the strategy behind the Palin pick as I see it. This is an academic endeavor for me – I’m not looking for converts here.


  16. Shinhao Li, I think one thing that we can probably agree on is that the McCain campaign has accomplished most of what it hoped to accomplish with the Palin pick. A big bump among religious conservatives, stealing the thunder from the Dems post-convention, and, perhaps most importantly, attracting the media’s attention, if not obsession, to irrelevant issues. I think you and I would both prefer to hear the candidates talk about policies, rather than personal lives. I also think that in the era of the blog, the line between media and supporters has become extremely blurred, and whether or not such outlets write with the approval of the campaign is even more murky.

    I guess its up to us to muddle through…


  17. Historiann:

    I don’t mean to triangulate between you and ej, but yes, your points exactly.

    The question of how to vote is an interesting one, because your counterparts on the right, the hard-right social conservatives, have the same problem of being ignored by the Republican party.

    I say this with no pleasure, but the Religious Right, despite no where else to go, remains a powerful force in the conservative movement. Not overwhelming, but at least relevant. How? Recall the Bush 2000 campaign – he didn’t pay much attention to the religious base at all. They didn’t turn out, and (let’s not get into details) barely, somehow, won. He and Karl Rove didn’t forget that. Contrast that with Bush 2004. Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage! Outrageous, IMHO. 2004, he won, and not by a little.

    McCain, by sheer dumb luck, won the primary this year. He first won in NH, where he’s always been strong. (My grandmother lives there, and calls him John. “John’s coming this weekend to speak at the library.” Go figure.) He won in a field of five in South Carolina. Dumb luck. By virtue of winning two in a row, he became the front-runner from a field of lookalikes, and won Super Tuesday.

    I was happy, but the religious base wasn’t. They didn’t give him money, didn’t volunteer for his rallies, didn’t show support in any way. His approval among conservatives was 60~70%. He knew he had to do something, and he picked Palin. Witness the roar. 7 million USD in donations.

    Somehow, the Religious Right has been able to punish the Republican party without seriously hurting them. Nobody is stupid, and bluffs don’t work. They weren’t bluffing, they were actually willing to let Gore-Lieberman win. It was a near-death experience for the Bush team, and they never forgot it.

    BTW, I find your sex(gender?)-neutral personal pronouns interesting, I never seen those before. In what fields are they commonly used, if any?


    Fair enough – a more fact-based, less-sensational media – I’ll drink to that!


  18. Shinhao Li–a very astute analysis. McCain is the candidate that no particular faction of the Republican party had any love for, but the party backed into nominating him anyway. I think the Palin nomination is best explained by his need to get the evangelicals on his side–the Western governor, moose-hunting, “maverick” reformer stuff is all a bonus. One thing I actually admire about the Bush/Cheney political operation is that they actually care about their base and pander to it–whereas huge swaths of the Democratic party are regularly dissed by their nominees! (And, as someone who has spent a lot of time in N.H., I have to say that McCain is a tailor-made candidate for that state. But, there were a LOT of Ron Paul signs there last year and this year!)

    ej: I respect Jeralyn’s decision at TalkLeft to forbid discussion of Palin’s private life, and I wish more blogs would follow her lead. I don’t get why you think that’s bad. However, she clearly thinks that Palin’s candidacy is a joke, whereas the other major contributor, Big Tent Democrat, agrees with me as to how to approach Palin, and ze’s been critical of the panty-sniffing slut-shaming all along…

    Once again, we see the happy accident that the Palin nomination not only makes a key element of the Republican base happy, but it sets Democrats at each other’s throats!


  19. Historiann, I don’t think the position of Jeralyn at Talk Left is bad at all-merely citing that as one example of a liberal blog that isn’t participating in the personal smear, but trying to focus on policy. Which I applaud!


  20. Oh–OK. Sorry for the misunderstanding, ej. But it’s one of the only ones, along with Corrente (which talks about the issue but most commenters strongly condemn that it’s an issue at all.) I like Shakesville, which is defending the Palin family’s right to privacy while decrying Sarah Palin’s politics.


  21. Pingback: A tale of two Senators : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  22. Pingback: Is Sarah Palin Good For Women? - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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