Within twenty-four hours of Obama’s history-making speech, McCain made another historical announcement, the addition of the first female vice-presidential candidate for a major American party since the Mondale-Ferraro ticket. And just as in the case with Mondale, many pundits view the addition of Palin to the Republican ticket as a gamble, or as one commenter put it, “doubling down.” There are many feminist implications to the nomination, made particularly interesting by the failed Clinton campaign, because it’s clear that the conservative strategy is not only to ride Clinton’s historical coattails, but also to mock the sexism in the liberal camp that has divided the party for decades.
Many liberals are concerned about picking on Palin the person as opposed to attacking Palin the politician. One of the problems with Palin is that her executive resume is so thin there isn’t a whole lot to critique. We know by now that she has a reputation for being a reformer and a whistleblower, which is meant to compliment McCain’s old reputation as a maverick. [Though curiously McCain is stepping back on his old ideals and marching in line with his presidential predecessors, even resorting to the old Bush-Cheney fallback of arresting protestors before his political events, or merely relocating them, to give the appearance of being uncontroversial. Oh, and Palin may also be cool with socially-conservative censorship. So very maverick-y.]
So here is Palin on the issues:
Perhaps the most brilliant part of putting Palin on the Republican ticket is that her milkshake brings the oil-hungry wing of the GOP to the yard. The Republicans have been dead set on drilling in Alaska for the last decade. Conservatives decry the use of alternative fuel sources, pushing the theory that to achieve energy independence we must start drilling on American soil. McCain has touted his record in support for alternative energy sources, but the addition of Palin and her obnoxious eagerness to drill in her home state makes this stance a wash. Or as D puts it,
…she puts the lie to McCain’s support for alternative and renewable energy. Palin got a gas pipeline deal — which everyone knew would happen one way or another — but hasn’t departed from the Alaskan motif of sucking everything from the ground before the communists come to snatch our guns away and turn the entire state into a park. She’ll be a boon to the Drill Now/Drink America’ Milkshake sloganeering that McCain will continue to push until November.
And interestingly enough, Palin is quite literally in bed with Big Oil — her husband Todd Palin is a long-time employee of BP.
The other curious thing about Palin’s relationship to Big Oil and the GOP is that one of her most successful pieces of legislation as governor is the ACES program, a tax on Big Oil. The three basic provisions for this tax plan included an increase on taxes of oil profits, a windfall provision that raised taxes after a certain benchmark, and a tax floor that guaranteed the oil companies would still pay 10% on the price of each barrel even if the cost per barrel went below a certain benchmark. The program was very successful, producing much more revenue for Alaska than anyone, including Palin, expected. As a certain sort of socialist liberal, I have no problem with this legislation. But hey, a tax hike is a tax hike.
If Palin were a Democrat, this is the kind of jeremiad you’d be hearing from Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist, but instead of talk about looting American businesses and destroying incentives to invest, we get crickets. Norquist doesn’t even mention taxes here and Limbaugh, who’s been talking up Palin for a while, doesn’t either. “Babies, guns, Jesus. Hot damn!” was his reaction yesterday.
So: one of the first things Palin did after she took office was to propose a big tax increase that included a windfall profits tax on the oil industry. I don’t have a big problem with that, and I’m sure the McCain campaign will eventually treat us all to a blizzard of spin about why her tax increase wasn’t really a tax increase. But facts are stubborn things…
Further back in her career as mayor of Wasilla, “Palin, who portrays herself as a fiscal conservative, racked up nearly $20 million in long-term debt as mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla — that amounts to $3,000 per resident. She argues that the debt was needed to fund improvements.”
In short, Palin’s relationship to the GOP’s traditional platform — less government, less taxes — is slippery at best, certainly making her a gamble for the fiscally-concerned wing of the Republican party. But many are saying that Palin is really meant to galvanize the socially-concerned wing of the Republican party, the “babies, guns, and Jesus” wing, as Limbaugh puts it.
Katha Pollitt writes about Palin’s image in regards to reproductive rights:
Sure, Palin is cool — she’s pretty and vivacious and athletic, a former beauty queen who runs marathons, hunts , fishes and eats mooseburgers, plus she’s got five kids with unusual names like Willow and Track, including a newborn with Down’s syndrome. I feel tired just thinking of what her daily life must be like, and if she were my neighbor I would probably like her a lot. It shows how deeply feminism has penetrated American culture that even anti-choice right-wing-christian women are breaking out of the old sugary-submissive pastel-suited stereotype.
Good lord! What would Phyllis Schafly think? Actually, Schlafly says, “She is a complete package. She is right on all the issues, particularly pro-life and drilling for oil,” remaining curiously silent on her lifelong career of telling women to stay home. Where they belong. With their babies. Pollitt again:
Here’s the reality: Palin is a rightwing-christian anti-choice extremist who opposes abortion for any reason whasoever, except to save the life of the girl or woman. No exception even for rape, incest, or the health of the woman. No exception for a ten-year-old, a woman carrying a fetus with no chance of life, a woman on the edge of suicide– let alone the woman who is not ready to be a parent, who is escaping domestic violence, who is already stretched to the limit as a single mother. She wants to force over one million women and girls a year to give birth against their will and judgment. She wants to use the magnificent freedom the women’s movement has won for her at tremendous cost and struggle–the movement that won her the right to run those marathons and run Alaska — to take away the freedom of every other woman in the country.
Meanwhile, pundits all over TV and the internet, like Schlafly, laud Palin’s choice to “walk the walk” of the pro-life position, choosing to have a Down’s Syndrome baby while in office, while simultaneously questioning her ability to govern with an infant in the White House. The debate rages on at Hugo Schwyzer’s blog where Hugo celebrates her nomination as a step forward for women and mothers in politics. His commenters take a more ambivalent view. Auguste, for one, points out that for all the celebration of her “choice” to have a special needs child, if it were up to Palin, it would be a choice no other woman would get to make.
Feminister Cara writes on her own blog about how maddening it is to see this baby used as a pawn for political legitimacy:
You know what we often say about how conservatives care a whole lot about fetuses but very little about actual children? Well here’s your example. It’s almost as though they think that Palin became pregnant and gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome simply to please them. And the thing is that if they really believe their rhetoric, the answer was obvious, so obvious in fact that Palin didn’t really have a “choice” to make. Only now, because it’s convenient, they want to acknowledge that the decision of whether or not to abort after getting news that your child will be born with a disability is a difficult one, simply so that they can point and say “but look at her, she searched her soul and then did the right thing — so should all women!” They don’t want women to have a choice, but then want to praise this particular woman for the choice that she did make.
Agreed. I can’t wait to see the conservative spin on this one, should the Dems pick it up.
But how effective is this strategy? Will Palin bring moderates to the GOP? PUMAs? Will she galvanize the social conservatives who have been hesitant to vote for McCain? Maybe:
A significant part of Palin’s base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).
And yet, “Palin and her staff complained that efforts to raise these issues in public were divisive and hypothetical.”
In other words, it doesn’t look likely that she’ll do anything to shore up moderates. D again:
The real strike against Palin is that she’s Bobby Jindal without the exorcisms… She’s not going to yank any women from the Democrats; she’s there to mobilize the nutter base of the Republican party. But since the nutter base of the Republican party will be mobilized enough by the knowledge that Barack Obama drinks pureed fetus each morning before throwing himself prostrate to Mecca, I don’t see how Palin is going to accomplish anything more along these lines.
Much is being made of her executive inexperience, and conservatives are quick to compare her resume with Obama’s, discounting that he has a long history of community organizing, teaching, and a nice background in Constitutional law, in addition to his time in the Senate. But Rikyrah at Jack and Jill Politics compares Palin’s nomination to that of Clarence Thomas, in that there were plenty of other more experienced, vetted, minority selections McCain could have chosen, moreover pointing out that McCain’s slogan of “County First” is called into question by selecting a candidate to make a point instead of selecting someone more qualified to be his successor. The biggest gaffe is that by McCain’s own experience standard, the one used to hammer Obama for the last year, Palin fails. She’s a transparent rookie that, with one particular scandal, shows some painfully poor political judgement.
Check this: One of the more damning affects to Palin’s political sheen is that she’s embroiled in a corruption controversy that has yet to resolve itself, primarily that she pressured employees to fire her ex-brother-in-law while he waged a custody battle her sister during their divorce. So there goes the MRA vote.
But with two months left in the campaign, and loose-lipped, Joe “clean and articulate” Biden selected as Obama’s running mate, some of the concerns about the upcoming debates are taking shape. Many are concerned about Biden’s attack dog reputation being let loose on a female candidate in an election year where nerves are exposed due to overt sexism aimed at Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. Biden could certainly say something stupid and sexist, but I’m concerned that any attack on Palin or the issues could turn into a rhetorical “don’t hit a girl” — with glasses, no less — debate, something the GOP will milk ’til it’s dry despite their eagerness to exclaim that Clinton was a cunt bitch better off ironing their shirts and that Michelle Obama was a radical, whitey-hatin’ babymama. M. Leblanc suggests Biden hammer her on the hypocrisy of the party, for example, McCain’s jump to nominate her right after he allowed the Supreme Court ruling against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to stand. Where would she, a powerful conservative woman, stand on the issue?
UPDATE: Former Feminister Zuzu has a great post up at Shakesville warning liberals not to do Karl Rove’s work for him.
UPDATE II: While linked in the meat of the post above, you really have to read this Alaskan perspective on the nomination, particularly because it fleshes out the ongoing Troopergate controversy.
- Sarah Palin’s not-so-hidden extremism by jamelle September 2, 2008
- Ridin’ Dirty by Lauren October 7, 2008
- Shorter Michael Gerson: “Women are children.” by jamelle September 1, 2008
- Before The Speculative Commentary Gets Out of Hand by Lauren September 1, 2008
- More on Sarah Palin’s Church by Cara September 7, 2008