Saturday, September 6, 2008

This is Progress?

At first glance, it might seem remarkable that the Republicans are the ones that have a woman on the ticket this year. But look at how they're marketing her: "The Hottest Governor from the Coolest State." I feel a little sick.

I'll admit it - the political scene is suddenly riveting. The Republicans are infatuated with their new VP candidate and the word is out that the Democrats are enlisting Hillary Clinton to take her on.

If I wasn't a believer that women have truly been an oppressed group before, this does it. Think about it: it may have taken decades to get a major party to endorse a black candidate for president...but once he's in the running the race question can, for the most part, be skirted. Yes, there was the whole Jeremiah Wright thing and once in a while someone tosses out a yellow flag on 'The Race Issue'...but except for one mind-bogglingly stupid Georgia legislator who referred to the Obamas as "uppity", Barack Obama and John McCain can debate as two legislators running for president.

But despite Sarah Palin's nasty, dismissive attacks on her opponents, they have to be very, very careful how they respond to her. Because she's a woman.

There's plenty of ammo, to be sure. She jeered at the notion of public service. She exaggerated her own accomplishments as governor, misstated facts to make herself sound more important. She refers to her daughter's decision to have her baby as a "choice" while advocating denying that choice to millions of others. She's got some scary secessionist ties and a record of dismissing environmental concerns as she entreats us to "pray for more oil drilling." This woman is an extremist with very little experience - and the McCain campaign brought her on board knowing that she could become president by default. That political decision speaks volumes about the McCain campaign's concern for this country's future. It's clearly a game and what matters is winning.

But the Obama campaign will have to tread carefully as it pushes back. They know all too well how easily a statement can be turned into a sexist dig...and the media is not only looking for it, but practicing it. I was not a fan of the Hillary Clinton candidacy, but I certainly felt for her when newspeople made cracks made about her clothes, about her emotion (or lack of it) , complained that she was a whiner or had an annoying voice. These are the kinds of remarks that never, ever get made about a male candidate. But Clinton had to slog through that minefield.

If Joe Biden comes down too hard on Palin, he'll be seen as picking on her. Any rebuttals will be examined for sexist language. So it's going to take a woman to do the Democrats' dirty work. And they're calling on Clinton.

She's more than capable. But the fact that she's needed is an eye-opener. The Republicans don't need to find a powerful black Republican to attack Barack Obama. The language allows them to do it without playing the race card. The Democrats have a much more difficult time of it...our language is full of terms that could be seen as sexist. Just about anything we say that refers to someone weaker or less powerful, anything dismissive or usually can be interpreted to be sexist - whether we mean it to be or not. And that's indicative of how women are seen in our culture. So it's going to take Hillary Clinton and other strong Democratic women to say what needs to be said about Sarah Palin. Because whenever a man criticizes a woman, whether the criticism is justified or not, chances are the language is going to be a mine field.

"The Hottest Governor from the Coolest State?" Spare me. How about campaigning on smarts? How about campaigning on issues? How about a thoughtful debate on how to stop this country's slide into a deepening recession? What do we have to do to get this country to focus on what's important...campaign with bags over our heads?

I have fallen deeply in love with The Daily Show during these few days. Yes, they're partisan and I like their point of view. But it's not that. No one else is ignoring the stupidity and actually looking at the facts...digging up old interviews that clearly show how candidates and party leaders are contradicting themselves. And when they asked GOP delegates to describe just what those hallowed "Small Town Values" they espouse are, all they could come up with was that it meant no same sex marriages. That's it?

Ask the hard questions. Force yourself to think. Mindless following of anyone, no matter how charismatic they may be, is a waste of a vote. Decide what you truly believe in, then find the candidate who reflects that. Or get ready for a very bumpy ride.

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