Sarah Palin was selected by John McCain today to be the second woman in our country's history to run for the Vice Presidency of the United States. She's going to attempt the break the glass ceiling that Geraldine Ferraro first cracked back in 1984, which is a cool thing on some level. But it does raise the question raised by the primaries already once this year — is it more important to vote for a woman, or to vote for a candidate that represents the issues of importance to women?Because — as EMILY's List's Ellen Malcolm notes — Sarah Palin is hardly the latter. She opposes reproductive choice and marriage equity. She's a member of the group "Feminists for Life," which is dedicated to eliminating reproductive choice in this country. She is a big promoter, like McCain, of so-called "consumer-driven" health care, in which the government would eliminate the tax breaks companies get for offering health insurance (and thus your company's financial incentive to pay for yours) — despite the fact that, as Gloria Steinem pointed out, women are far and way the larger users of our health care system. No one yet knows if she supports the Lilly Ledbetter pay equity bill, but she certainly hasn't spoken about it in the last year and, given that the head of her ticket opposes it, it's a fair bet to say she wouldn't fight for it. But the newspapers are all full of speculation that McCain chose her to try to win over the Clintonistas still upset about Hillary Clinton's loss — and her speech today in which she recognized the contributions of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton despite not mentioning how politically different they are, makes it clear that it is certainly on the campaign's mind. But while getting one woman to a top position is a great symbolic victory for women, is it worth giving up other things for which we've fought really hard just to get a symbolic victory? Palin Tough Target For Obama To Hit [Politico] The Ticket: McCain Palin [Politico] McCain To Announce Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin As His Vice Presidential Pick (Updated) [Think Progress] McCain And Palin: Promoting Failed Consumer-Driven Health Care [Think Progress] Deep Thought [Cogitamus] McCain Chooses Palin as Running Mate [NY Times]
I'd never heard of Sarah Palin before, somewhat embarassed that I hadn't. But I love her. Ladies, this is a female sports reporter, a hunter, a fisherwoman. It's an insult to her to assume that she holds her beliefs because they were crammed down her throat or brainwashed onto her by crazy people. She strikes me as totally her own person.
Palin embodies the fact strong, competent, BAMF women don't just come in one political stripe. This, I believe, makes liberals and Democrats uncomfortable.
This is an incredibly smart political decision for McCain.
Why? Well, for one, the obvious move: the woman factor. And it exposes a certain element of hypocrisy that the Democratic party has labeled itself the party of women for god-knows how long, has failed to get one in the No. 1 or No. 2 position. God knows they've done better on the state/local level, but that highest slots have been elusive. I think it's failed women in that regard.
No, she doesn't have much experience. But Republicans don't need experience right now — veteran GOP folks got them into a host of crappy corruption scandals, an unpopular war, and a crappy energy policy. More than anything right now conservatives need fresh ideas, new ways of thinking of limited government, to both substantively and stylistically revitalize the fratty, jowly, fat-cat womanizer image that's dragging them down right now.
I see this coming from young, independent-minded, business-savvy, ultimately practical Republicans like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. He's rolled back cumbersome taxes, brought in the best ethics reform in the country, and is making mass strides to cutting out bureaucracy that makes life miserable for everyone and help business work better with government.
And the independent-minded Palin is totally in a similar model, showing an admirable record of speaking out about things that she saw were wrong and weren't working. Veteran congressmen couldn't do this when they saw their veteran colleagues getting messed up in funny business.
Also, I think this a brilliant political move by McCain. One, he's settled down his base, which was deeply apathetic to him before and really considering staying home. Two, he has, greatly enhanced his swing-voter margin. Obviously, he's not going to win over the liberal feminists — but they were going to vote for him anyway. He's going to bridge the gap with swing-voting moms and so forth who were worried about having a strong hand on the military stuff. But I think it goes beyond pandering. I think it tells the people that there can be a new, fresh way to apply conservative ideals. And that, to folks who were deflated by McCain and discouraged by the party's general flatulence, this is a very encouraging message.
Three, it shows people that he can surprise, he can think differently, he can come up with new ideas and shake up debate. And that's really important for him, too.
Conservatives have been telling people for ages that simple ideas of limited government are important and more than just knee-jerk exploitation and farty-fart ness, but with our leadership clearly full of old guys, it's been a hard perception to shake.
I think this will raise Obama's game, too. I think his supporters are pouty that he can't just coast along to victory on his identity advantage. Now he's going to really have to compete, really get specific on his proposals, and up his game. We'll get to see how he does under more pressure. And with a man who's going to be leader of the free world, I think that's only a good thing.
To reduce Palin to some Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin style parrot is simply degrading to her. She seems to me a substantive politian with a lot to contribute. At the very least, she'll raise some great discussion and shake up our assumptions about identity politics.
And I think that's hugely important in a democracy.