So, what do the ‘feminists’ think of Sarah Palin?

Alas, the summer hiatus ends and I write once again.

I was feeling euphoric about witnessing and sharing with my young daughter and son, the historic moment at the close of the Democratic Convention. (For my husband, he was priviledged to actually be there and share in that moment.)  I had to impress upon their young and inquisitive minds, how momentus this evening was – that the first African-American had been nominated for President by a leading political party in the United Stated of America, for the very first time in history!  What this would mean to them in the context of a tumultous history from slavery, to civil rights and then to a general election with an African-American on the top of the ticket – will only be realized once they have lived a little in this world.

It was an interesting discussion explaining to my children about the defeat of a woman, for instance; ‘that while Hillary Clinton was a strong and able candidate, who lost the nomination to Barack Obama,  it was equally historic that an African-American became the Democrat’s candidate’, is how I think I phrased it.  I knew my daughter would still be inspired – by both Clinton AND Obama – telling her that anyone who has worked hard, cares about people, is smart and can stand up and speak intelligently about issues which affect our country and the world around us, can someday aspire to becoming president. 

Then came the Friday announcement of McCain’s running-mate: Sarah Palin.  My son asked me who she was as we watched the announcement/rally.  Telling him she was McCain’s Vice President, he said, “But she’s not Hillary Clinton, how can she become a Vice President”.  The same thought ran through my mind, but naturally on an entirely different level.  That McCain felt he could dupe the women out there by propping up an unknown female politician, from a sparsely populated state, who sounded aggressive, and seems to be a most anti-woman, woman candidate- was frankly, insulting.  My hope is that the disgruntled Hillary supporters are smarter than what McCain is making them out to be!  Just because she has the anatomy of the female gender, does not make her some symbolic replacement.  Women need to see through this blatant transparency.  Most people would acknowledge that were many more compelling women in the Republican party with much more broad based experience, ‘vetted-ness’ and gravitas.   This is obvious pandering to a very specific segment of Republican conservatives.  My wish is for the many articulate, media savvy, vocal and active ‘feminists’ to come out aggressively to voice their disgust at McCain and this insult to women. While I respect that there are many women who may agree with Palin’s conservative bent with regards to abortion, I’m sure they would come to reject McCain’s policies on women’s concerns. I invite the alums from women’s colleges, prominent feminists and women’s rights activitists to heed this call and flood the media with a clear message from women who know McCain is not a champion for women’s rights, is against equal pay for equal work, and even against the right to choose – and dissuade those women who are leaning towards voting for this ticket.  Let us not re-seal those 18 million cracks which have been made in that glass ceiling! In the blogosphere, I am hearing women rally behind Palin, saying, “she’s so pretty and would make a great VP”, or “she’s the mother of 5 kids, what an inspiration”.  Our young women need to be inspired by more than just a beauty pageant winner or an honorable mother – even while she may have made personal strides in achieving her political aspirations.  The creditials required to be next in line as the leader of the free world, I would hope, would be a slightly more demanding reach for higher expectations, no?  In all fairness, it would be wiser to critique Palin’s work and policies she’s set in her short gubernatorial career.  Very quickly it will be realized that most Democratic women would not agree with her platform.


ADDENDUM:  Thank goodness fellow Alum, Gloria Steinem said her peace: “To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, “Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs!” You can read the post here.

So, here I have dug up a few voices of prominent ‘feminists’ and hope for more…

McCain Tries To Grab the History Flag From Obama:  by Tanya Melich

August 29, 2008

The first time I hear a woman has achieved something special, my automatic reaction is to cheer, to think  “good, another of us has won.”  

Then reality sets in and the questions start.

That is what happened this morning when the cable television news programs announced that John McCain had picked first term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, age 44, to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Watching her at a rally with John McCain standing by her side like a proud, protective grandfather, Palin was energetic, warm and reminded me of all those earnest young women we feminists have been recruiting into the women’s political movement since the early l970s.

Her path to power follows the pattern of many of those women that the Center for American Women in Politics has been studying for years. They are caring woman who get into politics to tackle local problems and move up to greater and greater responsibilities and power by grit, charm and aggressiveness.

Palin started in the PTA angered over local school conditions. Her small town of Wasilla—population nearly 8,000—elected her to its City Council on a plank of cutting taxes.  At 32 years old, she became Wasilla’s mayor.  A race for lieutenant governor against opponents with much more experience was lost but only by some 2,000 votes.

Next she challenged the Alaska GOP establishment and won a three-way primary in 2006 with 51 percent of the vote.  She then defeated the Democrat Tony Knowles 48 to 41 percent, not a bad  showing for a 42-year old woman with a modest public record.

On the surface, she appears to be a woman with political talent, but dig deeper and you wonder what is there to make McCain believe she would make a good president of the United States.  Why her for the top political job in America?

If he wanted to grab some of the historic glory  from Obama’s remarkable rise with his own first for the GOP, Texas U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutcheson was McCain’s logical choice.  She’s been a senator since 1993, has sat on the Armed Services Committee for years and is acceptable to the social conservatives and economic conservatives that make up the base of the GOP. She is experienced enough to be a serious contender.

Others in the GOP field all have problems with the GOP voting base: Condi Rice is too tied to the Bush Administration, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are too moderate and Christine Todd Whitman is not popular with the White House.  That leaves Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle who has not been sufficiently anti-tax for the GOP supply-siders and not sufficiently in tune with the religious GOP conservatives.

The reality of the McCain pick barely rests on Palin’s personal qualifications. McCain is attempting to present Palin as a symbol that the Republican Party supports women  but  her selection is not a major change—except by degree—for the GOP. Republicans have been running women for a long time. This historic first is NOT a first for the country, just  for the GOP.

McCain is caught on the horns of a dilemma.  To beat Obama, he must hold onto the socially conservative base of the Republican Party.  He must energize those who oppose abortion, rights for gays, gun control and stem cell research. He can’t run away from his 90 percent recent voting record favoring President Bush’s policies.

McCain hopes that by picking a woman he can show he’s open to doing things differently, but his selection is window dressing and insulting to anyone who knows that he opposes equal pay for equal work legislation and opposes a woman’s right to choose.
And this is just part of the list of issues of concern to women that he doesn’t champion.

Most importantly, McCain is not disentangling himself from the anti-woman backlash GOP strategy adopted many years ago to elect Reagan and then the two Bushes. One of his closest advisors, Charles Black, has for years been an enforcer of this strategy. This Republican War Against Women approach adopted first in 1980 is still very much in place.  The strategy has nothing to do with running women for office.  It has always been about the party’s antagonistic policies toward issues of specific concern to women.

To win the presidency, Reagan and the two Bushes played on the fear of women’s potential power. It is because of this strategy that women have been leaving the Republican party for years, and it is why more American woman are Democrats and vote Democratic.

This backlash strategy born in the passionate times of the 1970s, when many Americans were afraid of women’s power, will no longer work. How insulting to American women that the McCain camp thinks it can disguise it.

This campaign season America has seen a capable, competent woman nearly become the nominee of a major political party. Women are now governors, CEOs, members of Congress and presidents of many universities. And of  course, Nancy Pelosi is by the Constitution third in line to be president of the United State as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Upon hearing that Sarah Palin had been selected to be McCain’s running mate, Senator Hutcheson called her “a breath of fresh air.” Unfortunately for the Republicans, Palin is not.  She is a retread of the Republican backlash strategy that showcases women but insists they be attached to policies that hurt women.

John McCain may think he can seduce American voters by having Sarah Palin by his side, but when the majority of Americans learn the Republican platform does not bring health care to Americans, will not protect woman to make their own reproductive choices, does not bring legal protection for equal pay for equal work, Sarah Palin, the McCain Trojan filly, will not fool American women.

About the Author:

Tanya Melich is a nationally recognized authority on women in politics. She was a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and led the fledgling National Women’s Education Fund, the first organization to educate women systematically on how to gain political power. Melich lectures extensively on college campuses and at domestic and international forums. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Republican War Against Women: An Insider’s Report from Behind the Lines (Bantam, l996; paperback, l998). Formerly a Republican who served on the political staffs of Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Charles Goodell and John Lindsay, she is now a Jeffords independent. She was a senior advisor on centrist women voters for the 2004 Kerry for President campaign.

Her op-eds have appeared in major national newspapers and magazines, and she has been a commentator on NY1. She was a public policy analyst for CBS corporate management, national election research director for ABC News and a fellow at the Institute of Politics, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. 

1 Comment »

  1. Michael said

    Sarah Palin is wrong for women.

    She is more appealing to men than to women. She is not a stay home mom and furthermore her children are small. The teenage daughter’s pregnancy is evidence that Palin was not at home and when parents are not home, the children run rampant including hormones. Palin does not address this concern of so many parents who are worried about their latchkey kids when they have to work all day and night. Does this mean that Palin condones premarital sex? If so, what are her moral values? What kind of role model is she to her children? She talks like a religious fanatic about the war and that is scary. She knows how to hunt which explains that she has spent a lot of time outdoors which is a mens’ territory. This woman is very controversial. Is she for the welfare of women or for the interests of men? She has misrepresented everything that all women stood for all these years. Women don’t need to be thrown back to the dark ages where their voices are unheard. Palin’s views should be thoroughly questioned and her standards be measured against cosmopolitan America not rural America. We should not be taken in by her approval rating in Alaska as they are subjective. The people in Alaska are not like people in Washington, New York or California. There are real politicians here like Hillary who knows what the Americans want. Hillary has come to a point in her life where she is going to give back to her country and fight for women and Americans. That is why the men are not for Hillary because she is truly fighting for the geniune cause of women’s issues. The last thing we want is a woman pleasing men at the White House at the expense of women’s votes. Palin will stab women in their backs, just watch her. She is not an honest person and has tons of validated excuses under her breath. Don’t let her in that White House because she is going to run the office and run McCain too! McCain is a weak man next to her. She is like a matriach running the show, except on a grander scale in the White House. She is going to let McCain know that she has more “balls” than McCain. Her intentions and values need to be put under a microscope. There is something terribly fishy about her. It is scary that Palin can go hunting and have pictures of her “catch” on Youtube with a young child next to her. She is a wildcard and more research needs to be done to expose her role in this Republican campaign. The Republicans obviously are using her a a “pawn” against Democrats, so fall into this trap.

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