I have a piece up at TAP:
Palin’s addition to the ticket takes Republican faux-feminism to a whole new level. As Adam Serwer pointed out on TAPPED, this is in fact a condescending move by the GOP. It plays to the assumption that disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters did not care about her politics — only her gender. In picking Palin, Republicans are lending credence to the sexist assumption that women voters are too stupid to investigate or care about the issues, and merely want to vote for someone who looks like them. As Serwer noted, it’s akin to choosing Alan Keyes in an attempt to compete with Obama for votes from black Americans.
It’s clear that Republicans believe that what made Hillary Clinton such a good candidate was her gender, not her political experience or positions on the issues. And McCain’s decision to pick Palin shows he took this message to heart and chose to add her to the ticket primarily because of her gender. In so doing, McCain has turned the idea of the first woman in the White House from a true moment of change to an empty pander.
Why is this a pander? Because Palin is not a woman who has a record of representing women’s interests. She is beloved by extremely right-wing conservatives for her anti-choice record (fittingly, she’s a member of the faux-feminist anti-choice group Feminists for Life). Palin supports federal anti-gay marriage legislation. She believes schools should teach creationism. Alaska is currently considering spending more on abstinence-only sex education. And when it comes to a slew of other issues of importance to women, such as equal pay, she’s not on the record.
McCain is doing what Obama supporters should have done this week in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. The Republicans are doing what Republicans do… whatever it takes to win the White House. Its cynically pitting the hopes and aspirations of Black folks against those of White women who vote… here is an FYI, White women voters outnumber us! [...]
Why do I place the onus on Obama supporters and not Clinton supporters to make the overtures to mend the rift? A) Because as the winner, it didn’t cost you anything to be kind to those who lost, even if you thought they were sore losers and B) You need the PUMAS, the PUMAS don’t need the Obama acolytes. As far as some of the Clinton supporters are concerned, their election is over.
Simply put, this cynical, calculated choice by the McCain camp — she’s a woman, so she’ll get the votes of all those cranky old bags who were pulling for Hillary! — is going to mean another round of headaches and frustration for feminists. Yes, many of us were excited at the prospect of a woman in the White House; no, not any woman will do. And, unfortunately, the folks who are supposedly on “our” side who want to drive home how bad a choice Palin is will do so with sexist commentary about her beauty-queen past, her smarts, her lack of any sort of foreign-policy experience, and, undoubtedly, her hair and wardrobe. And women who find Palin’s politics odious, but who are equally offended by the media’s treatment of her, will be in the always-awesome position of hearing from all corners how unfeminist they are for not supporting the sisterhood.
But even among more reasonable Democrats, the Palin pick does create worries for the still-tender party, not the least of which is that it will reopen a debate about whether Barack Obama should have picked a female vice president, or more specifically, Hillary Clinton.
Biden is a strong candidate for Democratic women, with a good record of supporting reproductive rights and opposing antichoice nominees to the Supreme Court. Biden also wrote the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act, and is great on the lunch-bucket economic issues so vital to so many American women.
But there was pressure on Obama, especially after the energy (and votes) generated by Clinton’s run, to consider as a running mate Clinton herself, or women like Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano. He reportedly did not formally vet Clinton, and none of his final top three candidates for the job were female.
I have no problem with Palin being McCain’s VP. More women should be nominated for big national offices. I don’t think she’s going to fare well in debates with Joe Biden — who has an ability to tear someone to shreds without insulting their honor, as we saw in his speech on Wednesday — and I’m not totally convinced that she’s going to do a whole lot to help the McCain ticket. That is, unless those PUMAs really are stupid, which I’m pretty sure they’re not (oh, and they don’t really exist anyway).
Also, if you’re making a play for Hillary voters—older, middle-aged white women in rust-belt states–is the way to get it done by bypassing, say, Carly Fiorina and Kay Bailey Hutchison, to pick a former Ms. Alaska who’s only been governor for two years? There’s a meme about Barack Obama reminding older women of the slick, handsome guy who beat them out for a big promotion, even though they were more qualified. But here’s another very likely meme–Sarah Palin as the inexperienced, younger, attractive woman who beats them out for a promotion, even though they were more qualified.
Yeah, McCain’s trying to make a little history of his own, but considering the crowd he has to play to in order to win, his choice of Sarah Palin, while it would play under the big ticket Democratic party, the GOP continues to believe that a woman’s place is in the home (there’s those “family values” again), and it may not save him.