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By Tammy Bruce
September 8, 2008
In the shadow of the blatant and truly stunning sexism launched against the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign, and as a pro-choice feminist, I wasn't the only one thrilled to hear Republican John McCain announce Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. For the GOP, she bridges for conservatives and independents what I term "the enthusiasm gap" for the ticket. For Democrats, she offers something even more compelling - a chance to vote for a someone who is her own woman, and who represents a party that, while we don't agree on all the issues, at least respects women enough to take them seriously.
Whether we have a D, R or an "i for independent" after our names, women share a different life experience from men, and we bring that difference to the choices we make and the decisions we come to. Having a woman in the White House, and not as The Spouse, is a change whose time has come, despite the fact that some Democratic Party leaders have decided otherwise. But with the Palin nomination, maybe they'll realize it's not up to them any longer.
Clinton voters, in particular, have received a political wake-up call they never expected. Having watched their candidate and their principles betrayed by the very people who are supposed to be the flame-holders for equal rights and fairness, they now look across the aisle and see a woman who represents everything the feminist movement claimed it stood for. Women can have a family and a career. We can be whatever we choose, on our own terms. For some, that might mean shooting a moose. For others, perhaps it's about shooting a movie or shooting for a career as a teacher. However diverse our passions, we will vote for a system that allows us to make the choices that best suit us. It's that simple.
The rank bullying of the Clinton candidacy during the primary season has the distinction of simply being the first revelation of how misogynistic the party has become. The media led the assault, then the Obama campaign continued it. Trailblazer Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first Democratic vice presidential candidate, was so taken aback by the attacks that she publicly decried nominee Barack Obama as "terribly sexist" and openly criticized party chairman Howard Dean for his remarkable silence on the obvious sexism.
Concerned feminists noted, among other thinly veiled sexist remarks during the campaign, Obama quipping, "I understand that Sen. Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal," and Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen in a television interview comparing Clinton to a spurned lover-turned-stalker in the film, "Fatal Attraction," noting, "Glenn Close should have stayed in that tub, and Sen. Clinton has had a remarkable career...". These attitudes, and more, define the tenor of the party leadership, and sent a message to the grassroots and media that it was "Bros Before Hoes," to quote a popular Obama-supporter T-shirt.
The campaign's chauvinistic attitude was reflected in the even more condescending Democratic National Convention. There, the Obama camp made it clear it thought a Super Special Women's Night would be enough to quell the fervent support of the woman who had virtually tied him with votes and was on his heels with pledged delegates.
There was a lot of pandering and lip service to women's rights, and evenings filled with anecdotes of how so many have been kept from achieving their dreams, or failed to be promoted, simply because they were women. Clinton's "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" were mentioned a heck of a lot. More people began to wonder, though, how many cracks does it take to break the thing?
Ironically, all this at an event that was negotiated and twisted at every turn in an astounding effort not to promote a woman.
Virtually moments after the GOP announcement of Palin for vice president, pundits on both sides of the aisle began to wonder if Clinton supporters - pro-choice women and gays to be specific - would be attracted to the McCain-Palin ticket. The answer is, of course. There is a point where all of our issues, including abortion rights, are made safer not only if the people we vote for agree with us - but when those people and our society embrace a respect for women and promote policies that increase our personal wealth, power and political influence.
Make no mistake - the Democratic Party and its nominee have created the powerhouse that is Sarah Palin, and the party's increased attacks on her (and even on her daughter) reflect that panic.
The party has moved from taking the female vote for granted to outright contempt for women. That's why Palin represents the most serious conservative threat ever to the modern liberal claim on issues of cultural and social superiority. Why? Because men and women who never before would have considered voting for a Republican have either decided, or are seriously considering, doing so.
They are deciding women's rights must be more than a slogan and actually belong to every woman, not just the sort approved of by left-wing special interest groups.
Palin's candidacy brings both figurative and literal feminist change. The simple act of thinking outside the liberal box, which has insisted for generations that only liberals and Democrats can be trusted on issues of import to women, is the political equivalent of a nuclear explosion.
The idea of feminists willing to look to the right changes not only electoral politics, but will put more women in power at lightning speed as we move from being taken for granted to being pursued, nominated and appointed and ultimately, sworn in.
It should be no surprise that the Democratic response to the McCain-Palin ticket was to immediately attack by playing the liberal trump card that keeps Democrats in line - the abortion card - where the party daily tells restless feminists the other side is going to police their wombs.
The power of that accusation is interesting, coming from the Democrats - a group that just told the world that if you have ovaries, then you don't count.
Yes, both McCain and Palin identify as anti-abortion, but neither has led a political life with that belief, or their other religious principles, as their signature issue. Politicians act on their passions - the passion of McCain and Palin is reform. In her time in office, Palin's focus has not been to kick the gays and make abortion illegal; it has been to kick the corrupt and make wasteful spending illegal. The Republicans are now making direct appeals to Clinton supporters, knowingly crafting a political base that would include pro-choice voters.
On the day McCain announced her selection as his running mate, Palin thanked Clinton and Ferraro for blazing her trail. A day later, Ferraro noted her shock at Palin's comment. You see, none of her peers, no one, had ever publicly thanked her in the 24 years since her historic run for the White House. Ferraro has since refused to divulge for whom she's voting. Many more now are realizing that it does indeed take a woman - who happens to be a Republican named Sarah Palin.
Tammy Bruce is the author of "The New American Revolution" (HarperCollins, 2005) and a Fox News political contributor. She is a former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women. A registered Democrat her entire adult life until February, she now is registered as a decline-to-state voter.
By William Kristol
September 8, 2008
"We're not running against Governor Palin."
David Axelrod, the Obama campaign's chief strategist, on "Fox News Sunday," Sept. 7, 2008.
Actually, the Obama campaign is running (in part) against Sarah Palin. Her name will appear with John McCain's on the ballot. She'll debate Joe Biden on Oct. 2. And as the new kid on the block, she'll continue to get substantial media coverage over the next two months.
Will that coverage continue to be as belittling of Palin as much of it has been so far? Probably. It's not just that many in the media don't like her politics and don't identify with her socially or culturally. They're offended that McCain picked Palin without, so to speak, consulting them. The establishment media take pride in their role as gatekeeper to our political process and social discourse.
So the gatekeeper media's reaction has been: Who is Sarah Palin to suddenly show up on the national stage? We didn't vet her. And we don't approve of her.
Thus Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the venerable New Republic for the last 34 years, wrote a blog post Thursday while he was "still reeling from last night's malign hysteria at the Republican convention. This is a rotten crowd, even the pious Christian Huckabee and certainly Mayor Giuliani and the aspiring vice president, Sarah Palin."
Despite reeling from the speeches, Peretz was able to "give [Palin] her due: she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy's." He continued that it was "good to see that the Palin family didn't torture poor Bristol, at least in the open." And he concluded: "Yes, please God, do bless America and rescue us from these swilly people."
No malign hysteria there.
The Obama campaign, which would like to get votes from some of these very Americans, isn't going to follow Peretz down that rabbit hole. To the degree they have to address the Palin question, they'll stick to the argument they made in their first reaction to the Palin announcement: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency."
According to Safire's Political Dictionary, the "heartbeat away from the presidency" locution may date from 1952, when the Democratic nominee, Adlai Stevenson, attacked the Republican V.P. candidate, the 39-year old Richard Nixon, "who asks you to place him a heartbeat from the presidency." A half-century before, William McKinley's campaign manager, Mark Hanna, alarmed by the prospect of the 41-year-old Teddy Roosevelt as the V.P. nominee in 1900, is reported to have warned "that there is only one life between the Vice President and the Chief Magistracy of the nation."
In neither case were voters moved by the "heartbeat away" concern. McKinley and Eisenhower both won easily.
Should voters be alarmed by a relatively young or inexperienced vice-presidential candidate? No. Since 1900, five vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency during their term in office: Teddy Roosevelt in 1901, Calvin Coolidge in 1923, Harry Truman in 1945, Lyndon Johnson in 1963, and Gerald Ford in 1974. Teddy Roosevelt took over at age 42, becoming our youngest president, and he's generally thought to have proved up to the job. Truman was V.P. for less than three months and had been kept in the dark by Franklin Roosevelt about such matters as the atom bomb - and he's generally thought to have risen to the occasion. Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one's been in Washington.
Did McCain think Palin his very best possible successor? Perhaps not. Did Barack Obama think Biden the absolute cream of the Democratic crop? Perhaps not. They undoubtedly thought highly enough of their running mates to have confidence in their ability to take over their administration in case of incapacity or death. I think most voters will accept that basic judgment.
But - shocking to say! - both Obama and McCain also took political considerations into account in making their selections.
One thing McCain undoubtedly had in mind was Obama's failure to pick Hillary Clinton. As The Times's Patrick Healy reported Friday, "If the election remains close, the next president could very well be picked by what Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist, calls 'Wal-Mart Moms' - white working women with children living in the exurbs and in rural parts of battleground states. ..."
McCain didn't just pick a politician who could appeal to Wal-Mart Moms. He picked a Wal-Mart Mom. Indeed, he picked someone who, in 1999, as Wasilla mayor, presided over a wedding of two Wal-Mart associates at the local Wal-Mart. "It was so sweet," said Palin, according to The Anchorage Daily News. "It was so Wasilla."
A Wasilla Wal-Mart Mom a heartbeat away? I suspect most voters will say, No problem. And some - perhaps a decisive number - will say, It's about time.