The pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to the veep-slot of John McCain is what you might call a “gamble”. Republicans, of course, relieved that finally McCain’s campaign has gotten some positive mojo in the media for 48 hours straight, are calling Palin’s pick “fantastic”, “briliant”, “excellent”, etcetera. Team Obama has been remarkably careful in its initial response, and so has Hillary Clinton. They seem to be careful not to attack Palin too hard, as independent older women form one of the demographic groups that this year will decide the election.
Yet there’s enough to make those women growl about Palin.
At first glance, picking Sarah Palin seems a nice surprise. Her arrival on the national scene brings a certain freshness to it all. And, still at first glance, it seems to put Team Obama in a spot. Because just when Obama was fighting hard to reconcile women who were pissed off that he became the Democratic candidate, and not Hillary Clinton, BOOM – there’s another ‘strong woman’ (why do women always need to be characterized in the press? Do we say ‘strong man’?) on the battlefield now. And he has to be careful not to come across as a misogynyst.
That’s what the McCain campaign is banking on: that Palin will be able to tie independent women to the Republican ticket, bringing a world of electoral pain to Obama, who can’t rail against her in fear of turning off more independent women.
But surprise, surprise: that’s only half the story. To those McCain strategists who came up with the Palin-independent women scenario, I say this: what you may gain in that demographic by selecting Palin, you may lose in another demographic – the misogynist, right-wing, Bush Republican column.
One of the arguments against picking Hillary Clinton was that she would turn off a not so small group of voters: the macho, alpha-male misogynysts. There are plenty of them, and they’re eligible to vote. And they’d vote against Clinton because she’s a ‘strong woman’, not a stay at home, cookie-baking mom.
There is no reason to assume that these male chauvinists have suddenly changed their minds about ‘strong women’, and will thus vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. If anything, having Palin on the ticket might turn them off.
But even then, it is by no means certain that Palin will attract that many independent women to McCain’s column. Even though part of the story about Palin is that she’s a rebellious sort of Alaskan Republican, another part of the story is that she’s also a very conservative Republican.
She reminds me of the die-hard, give-no-quarter conservatism of George W. Bush. She’s a member of the Feminists for Life organisation. Yes, a feminist, and thus in favour of women being strong and independent (red alert for misogynist America!) but also vehemently opposed to legal abortion, even if the woman in question was the victim of rape or incest, and euthenasia and assisted suicide, even if the situation for the person in question is completely hopeless. (I certainly hope Joe Biden asks Sarah Palin what she would have done with the Terry Schiavo case. On national television.)
If Palin had her way, she’d appoint more conservative judges to the Supreme Court and overturn Roe vs. Wade, thereby turning back the clock on one of the most important, modern feminist achievements. And what’s up with that anyway – right wing Republicans want the government to stay out of their lives, but also want the government to enforce that no private person has a right to choose? You can’t have it both ways, people.
And by the way, there’s an awkward secrecy about the Feminists for Life. They have a website, www.feministsforlife.org, but they don’t show you all their opinions. Some sections are kept from public view, such as pages on the organisation’s views on euthenasia. Why is that? Those pages may only be seen by vetted, registered members of the organisation. Is it because the pages contain information and views that could possibly be viewed as extremist by your average, independent woman?