Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin(g) in Comparison

Holy shit.

The stupid part of me is glad I had it on record that I thought fearfully of this prospect several days ago, but I'd've been so much happier to be wrong.

I know bubkas about Ms. Palin except what's written in the above-linked article, so I'll have to learn some more. Chances are she's not even that bad. I will probably be killed by many friends for saying this, but I'm not even positive that abortion views are a make-or-break for me. I do support the existence of abortion rights, but on a level I believe to be somewhat more pragmatic than visceral—that is to say, there is something that has always, in spite of everything, felt hollow to me about the "my body, my choice" rhetoric and concept, but I don't believe that we are a society that can function well without women having the right to safe abortions. However, I don't think we're functioning all that well now, either. Nor does Ralph Reed's public endorsement of any individual make me feel hopeful about him *or* her.

I imagine, honestly, that if I do more research on Gov. Palin I will grow to like her. As I liked Mr. McCain eight years ago. Which clearly is exactly what the McCain campaign intended. Nothing against Mr. Biden, of course, but many on the fence, many who were turned off by the vociferousness of the Democratic primary and/or can't forgive Obama's triumph in that primary despite his former opponent's Tuesday night entreaty, will brake for a congenial female politician.

I know that many who share my general political views will be inclined to dismiss Sarah Palin's womanhood because she's conservative and anti-abortion—to say, as many say of Phyllis Schafly or some other such figure, that she's not a real woman, that she's anti-woman. That, in spite of my intense anger and fear, I want to preemptively disown. Sarah Palin is a woman; she is a real woman, although she does not support abortion rights, and probably a good woman, although she supports a huge natural gas pipeline in the North Slope and will quickly prove tremendously destructive to (Mother) Earth. Though I know it's in large part cheap political pandering that pushed Mr. McCain to this point, I have to appreciate the historicity of this election, and Sarah Palin's position as the Republican vice-presidential candidate contributes to that. The fact that a woman whose views are diametrically opposed to those of many who call themselves feminists is, perversely, a triumph of the feminist movement. Just as Barack Obama disagrees vociferously with, say, Clarence Thomas and Colin Powell. There have been enough inroads made in race and gender relations, inroads I am perfectly willing to attribute entirely to the left, that women and people of color can now campaign as individuals with individual views, not only as representatives of their race. It is a triumph, however perverse, to have Ralph Reed wholeheartedly support the ascension of a female politician. You've got to appreciate it. You've got to have the perspective to appreciate it. In part because that distance may come to be the only way to stay sane, but you do.

Last night, watching Barack Obama speak at the DNC, I got it, for the first time. For the first time, I really, viscerally wanted Obama to be president, not because I wanted him to beat McCain or because I wanted the Republicans out of office or because I appreciated how deeply he inspired people and I wanted that inspiration to have genuine power in the country or because I wanted Sasha and Malia Obama in the White House because they would be the coolest First Daughters EVER. I wanted, and still want, all those things, but I want Barack Obama to be president because I felt like it was possible that he could make this nation, for the first time in my adult life, a place whose present I was genuinely proud to be linked to. (I was still annoyed that his stance against the Iraq War in 2003 was touted, given that he was in the Illinois State Senate at the time and so his views didn't MATTER, but that's a small quibble.) Sarah Palin might turn out to be a wonderful individual and I might be very glad she is the governor of Alaska (although her desire for certain natural-gas pipelines as well as her anti-abortion views at least partially suggest otherwise), but I cannot delude myself into believing a McCain administration, whosoe'er his running mate may be, could create, change or foster a national atmosphere I want. Come 2009, the odds are good that I will have an even harder time being an American than I already do.

This post is somewhat incoherent because I am busy paling in terror at the prospect of a McCain administration, a prospect realer than it has been for months.

Our enemies are SMART. Anyone who is powerful enough to become our enemy rather than just an annoyance or eyesore is always SMART. Why do we forget this so easily?


At 11:47 AM, Blogger Connor said...

Hm. Well, I was evidently off in the last comment that I posted, and I agree with you that we are presented with an opportunity to "appreciate" Palin. I mean, we can appreciate her place in this election as the first woman on a major ticket; that is something to be proud of and to acnowledge. And finally, you did post this on 8/29, and the last 4 days have been extremely eventful.

But I disagree with most of the rest of what you have said about her. Politically she seems to be the worst of bad candidates: a high likelihood of corruption, a dogmatically closed-minded view of the world, no *particular* evidence of political saavy, and a lack of experience that likens Obama's to McCain's.

If part of considering her nomination to have been an achievement of the Left (which I do not necessarily disagree with, although it maybe gives the Right a lame excuse to have owned women's lib more than they deserve) then it is also appropriate to evaluate her resume on the same terms as I would evaluate her positions on issues, as well as the same terms as I would evaluate a male candidate or the democratic ticket VP candidate: that she seems to combine in one person the worst qualities of George W. Bush and Dan Quayle. She's belligerant, uncompromising, uninformed on the issues she'd be presiding over, lacks relevant experience, and has evidently been chosen for political expedience over any chemistry or cooperative spirit with her teammate.

I also strongly disagree that this is going to help the McCain campaign one bit, and I felt that way on Saturday morning before the revelations about her affiliation with the Alaskan Independence movement, her daughter's pregnancy (something I don't care about, but which the Right will) and all the other drama. The fundamental reason why so many women were drawn to Clinton was that she was an eminently qualified candidate, and that allowed her to own her historical role in ways that other candidates have not. I think (and some sources like Rasumussen are starting to suggest: here) that most women will reject this choice overall, and not simply on ideological grounds.

To suggest that "any woman will do" for women, which is not so subtly what the McCain campaign is saying this this choice, implies that women are desperate and are willing to accept a symbolic gesture (granted to a numerically significant voting bloc) as opposed to equal status in the "marketplace of ideas." Palin offers the former, but Clinton actually obtained the latter. I'm sure McCain/Palin will draw some of the crossover vote they seek, but I think they will be disproportionately punished by both independent voters and women for making a sharp tack to the right and an (accurately) perceived disingenuousness.

I'm going to post this on my blog... this is the most interesting start to a discussion of this subject I've found so far... you have gotten me to think more closely about Palin's good points than anyone else so far. :)

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Milligan said...

It's worth pointing out, in response, that the Republican leadership has been used to a large portion of their base -- i.e. the religious social conservatives -- supporting them principally on the strength of symbolic gestures for many years now. Over the past three decades, they've been able to rely on the Dobsons and Fallwells to bring out the votes in exchange for speeches laced with coded Christianist allusions and vitriol against gays and women. However, with the exception of some fairly minor gifts from Bush (e.g. the faith-based programs initiative, some agency support for things like creationism teaching and reducing access to contraception), they've gotten away thus far with rarely actually delivering on socially conservative policy goals.

My suspicion is that whomever picked Palin (notably, this apparently was NOT McCain, who seems to have wanted Lieberman) suffers from the same mindset, assuming that women as a block would be similarly swayed by a big symbolic gesture. FWIW, Palin being an extremely conservative Christian herself, read as a gesture to the Christian Right, this choice actually has worked -- evangelicals who were suspicious of McCain are apparently rapidly coming around because of Palin.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Ammegg said...

I'm posting more on this in the morning, but I think this is, indeed, going to help the McCain campaign tremendously, though not in the manner I implied in this post. Watching her speech tonight, I saw a few of the tricks they're pulling, and I remain terrified.

Part of it is as Milligan points out—she was in large part placed here to appease the evangelicals in a manner that McCain would not. They were willing to vote for him, given that that black guy from Chicago was their only other option, but they were not willing to actively campaign for him. Palin changes that. The evangelical right will now be *trying* to get out the vote, and that will have an impact.

She's doing a very good job of presenting her family and her blue-collar roots, and that's going to speak to a lot of people who are feeling the uppity black thing, which I referenced a few days ago, about Obama.

She is also stunningly strongly for the erosion of legislative power, but that's neither here nor there in response to your comments.

And I disagree about your general characterization, Connor. Yes, she's belligerent and uncompromising, but this woman can spell potato. And I mean that in any way you can take it.

More tomorrow.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Connor said...

I never said stupid. I don't think stupidity was Quayle's main liability, but his inexperience. Ditto, Bush... belligerence and a narrow vision his main liability. I think people focus too much on intelligence and not enough on the other qualities that make intelligence a workable tool.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Ammegg said...

Actually, I didn't say stupid either. :>D I agree with your general statement on intelligence, but I think Sarah Palin is a sharper politician than Quayle, and I'm not positive her inexperience is a more substantive liability than Obama's. I'll give you belligerence and a narrow vision, though. She's a zealot. She is, however, more congenial and suave about her zealotry than the President, and that to me is where the greatest concern lies.


Post a Comment

<< Home