Last night, upon hearing that Sarah Palin was McCain’s pick for VP, I thought it was bad news for us (but a good decision on his part). But after watching her speech, I’m re-considering. The invocation of Democratic women — particularly Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton — came across as shameless pandering, especially in light of the McCain team’s strategy to try and woo former Clinton supporters. It’s clear enough that Team McCain thinks women are so dumb that if they just switch the skirt, female voters will come running. This is the same party that has demonized Hillary Clinton for years, and now they’re singing her praises at a huge campaign rally? Uh-uh, female voters are not that dumb — even those “disaffected, angry” Clinton voters who CNN keeps telling me tend to be “older women.”
The fact is that John McCain has chosen a staunch conservative to be his running mate. She is anti-choice. She is against civil rights for gay and lesbian people. She wants to drill in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. She’s a gun nut. She’s a Buchanan supporter (and it doesn’t get much scarier than that). She wants to teach Creationism in schools. She doesn’t believe in global warming. She talks about having a child with Downs Syndrome, but then voted against funding special-needs programs in schools.
The McCain camp has picked an anti-woman woman to deliver their anti-woman message. It’s a card the GOP has been playing for a long, long time. They seem stuck on that statistic that 27% of Hillary Clinton voters are not supporting Barack Obama, and are trying to pull those voters to their side by talking about the glass ceiling and feminism (did you ever think you’d hear words like that used by the Republicans in a good way?). I wonder, though, how many of that 27% were moderate to right-leaning women in the first place, who supported Clinton because she’s Hillary Clinton and would have otherwise been voting Republican anyway? I just don’t imagine that there are significant numbers of truly progressive women who would support McCain out of spite (I’m sure there are a few, but it’s no 27%). And I don’t imagine that there are lots of women who would support an anti-woman candidate just because she has a vagina.
One thing I’m not looking forward to is watching progressives toss out the same old sexisms against Palin that have always been used against female politicians. I don’t like Palin, and I don’t particularly want to be defending her against attacks by fellow Obama supporters and media-makers, but those attacks are most certainly coming. Just watching CNN International, the focus on Hillary voters as vengeful witches intent on ruining the election has been stunning. Certainly Palin will receive her fair share of sexist media narratives as well — I’m particularly looking forward to Hillary Clinton’s response to Palin’s quoting of her, and how that will be cast as the ultimate powerful woman catfight.
Women are not stupid, even if John McCain thinks we are. And the progressives among us will not be voting for an anti-woman candidate just because she happens to be female. But hopefully, we also won’t be excusing sexism and misogyny directed at Sarah Palin just because we find her views abhorrent. And hopefully media elite and progressive writers will have the sense to attack Palin on the issues, and not on what’s in her pantsuits.