30th 2008
Sarah Palin

Posted under: American history, Gender, women's history

Well, when we all went to bed on Thursday night, we didn’t dream that we’d be thinking and talking about the Governor of Alaska all day Friday now, did we?  Maybe the McCain campaign has more chops than Democrats would like to believe.

Palin’s biography and career seem to be tailor-made for the McCain campaign.  Western state governor?  Check.  “Family values” conservative?  Check.  Lifelong NRA member?  Check.  Washington outsider?  Check.  Appealing family?  Check.  Not a millionaire?  Check.  Regular joe husband?  Check.  Looks good in Camo and eats what she kills?  Check.  Reinforces McCain’s “Maverick” image?  Check.  Reputation as a reformer?  Check.  Proves Historiann’s point about how great Republicans are at using biography to drive a campaign narrative?  Check. 

Ability to drive so-called “liberals” crazy and expose the misogyny that drives so-called “progressive” politics?  Check! 

Never mind that several of the men bandied about as possible VP picks had no more experience than Palin, and we never heard what a totally ridiculous choice other first-term governors like Tim Kaine, Charlie Christ, or Bobby Jindal would be.  (No–youth and relative inexperience in a male candidates make them “bold” choices about “change” and “the future!”)  So-called “liberals” like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher immediately started yukking it up about her “beauty pageant” experience.  So-called “progressive” women in the media are at it, too:  I made the mistake of flicking past the Randi Rhoads show this Friday afternoon just in time to hear her go after Palin in the same demeaning language that she used during the primary when speaking about Hillary Clinton, and apparently Stephanie Miller called Palin a “bimbo.”  (And you don’t even want to know what the boyz on teh “liberal” blogs are saying.)  Never mind that Palin ran against a sitting governor in her own party (Frank Murkowski), beat him in the primary, and then beat a former Democratic governor in the general in 2006.  Say what you will about her policies and her stand on the issues, but the girl knows what she’s doing.  As this commenter said at TalkLeft, “Yes, women are either too old, too status quo, or too young. A guy is either seasoned, or a bold and fresh choice.”  See how easy that is!  We can always find a reason to hate on women politicians and hold them to impossible standards, but it’s so easy to forgive a man any perceived vulnerabilities.  (Remember all of those pious insistences from all of your incredibly liberal, well-meaning, and totally feminist friends that “I would love a woman president, just not this one,” ?)

Don’t get me wrong:  I won’t vote for McCain/Palin, and I’m pretty darned sure the vast majority of liberal feminists won’t either, because we think Palin is wrong on the issues.  But the choice of Palin isn’t really about picking up votes from people like me, it’s about 1) shoring up the cultural conservatives in the Republican base, and 2) reaching out to independent and moderate Republican women, who were appalled at the way that Hillary Clinton was savaged by the media and her own party, and 3) possibly depressing the Democratic women’s vote.  If Palin does reasonably well and avoids making any obvious gaffes, she could really help McCain.  (James Dobson climbed up on his Unity Pony, and that ain’t hay.)  I had coffee yesterday  Thursday with a Republican friend who couldn’t believe that Obama didn’t pick Clinton for VP.  “He would have won in a landslide if he had,” she said, and an e-mail from her today Friday sounds like she’s paying close attention to Sarah Palin.  Another friend, a Republican who’s become disgusted by her party in the Bush years, sat in my office today Friday and told me that she’s giving the McCain ticket a serious look because she likes the notion of a Westerner and a hunter as a VP.  And there’s no question but that Palin’s stance as a tough working mother appeals to me and my friends, across partisan lines.

So, go ahead Democrats and the Obama campaign, and make fun of Sarah Palin.  Mock her for her supposed inexperience and small-town background.  Make fun of her because she was in a beauty pageant.  Demean her because she’s the governor of Alaska, and not a more populous state.  (A lot of people in the large square states take that kinda personally, and I thought you were looking for votes out here.  Besides:  Delaware?)  Democrats have gotten really good at not taking their opponents seriously and acting superior to them.  Any fool could see how completely superior Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry were to their opponents!  But guess what we’re not so good at?  Winning presidential elections.  Go ahead and have a laugh–you can cry in November when you realize that the voters never thought you were laughing about Sarah Palin–they think you’re laughing at them!

NOTE:  Edited slightly to clarify the timeline–when I wrote this post, sleepless in the middle of the night, I was still thinking of Friday as “today,” when of course it was very early Saturday morning.


74 Responses to “Sarah Palin”

  1. Knitting Clio on 30 Aug 2008 at 6:38 am #

    Well said, Historiann. I do think, though, that the inexperience bit may hurt McCain. Also, if he wanted a conservative woman, he had many more experienced ones from which to choose (e.g. Christine Todd Whitman). If I were one of these women, I’d really be insulted. Should be an interesting race.

  2. Roxie on 30 Aug 2008 at 8:06 am #

    Darn it, Historiann. You’ve got me thinking I need to get out my super-sensitive sexism detector to scrutinize what I posted about Palin yesterday — and I just hate re-reading myself — but I think I was clearly mocking McCain for thinking he could pick off women voters with a woman running mate so hostile to women’s issues. Although I did call McCain “old,” so I guess I’m at least ageist, if not sexist. Sigh.

    Anyway, you’re right that Dems shouldn’t take Palin lightly. All they need to do is remember Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen before they start laughing too hard. In the end, the top of the ticket matters more, but this is a selection that will energize the GOP base and make your part of the country a tougher get for Dems. Away we go!

  3. ej on 30 Aug 2008 at 8:30 am #

    I don’t think it would be appropriate to demean any female candidate, but what bothers me about the Republicans is that they seem to think specific kinds of women are okay, while others are “scary”. Those who fit the former category tend to fit a mold. They are all very feminine (i.e. former beauty queen who would never be caught dead in a pantsuit), are devoted beyond critique to their families (5 children, including an 8 month old baby), and always play the supporting role. They look a lot like a wife.

    Let’s not forget, Republicans had few positive things to say about Hillary Clinton until they thought they could get some mileage out of her. She “wore the pants in the family” and didn’t bake cookies and clearly didn’t really love her husband.

    Women like Palin succeed in their party precisely because they don’t challenge men to rethink traditional gender stereotypes. I don’t think any of this makes it okay to demean her, but I do find it very disturbing.

  4. GayProf on 30 Aug 2008 at 8:39 am #

    Except that Al Gore did win.

  5. Indyanna on 30 Aug 2008 at 9:06 am #

    Pretty much says it, Historiann.

    I never heard of her before yesterday, because Alaskan state-level politics aren’t even on my increasingly-selective radar screen. But it does reinforce the notion that McCain has a pulse in that he can completely surprise people, not the worst thing politically OR governmentally. And I think that point number 3) in the numbered series above is the key one. If the choice goads the left-blogocracy to follow its reflexive impulse to beat on anyone who wasn’t already demonstrating against the war in Iraq by March of 2003, it really will reenergize the notion in critical quarters that it’s the Democrats who really do want their womenfolk to serve mostly in the auxilliary. Obama could have nominated Cindy Sheehan, after all, not just some good soldier nama Joe…

  6. mary on 30 Aug 2008 at 9:47 am #

    I completely agree with ej here. I too was disturbed by McCain’s choice of Palin, actually I was downright pissed off. Like you pointed out historiann, she’s obviously smart and savy, but she talks about further breaking the glass ceiling—but her policies don’t really reflect that, in fact, they are exaclty the opposite. Like ej suggests, she prepetuates this idea that only women who “are very feminine, and are devoted beyond critique to their families” can be successful in politics. Palin was chosen because she challanges nothing.

    I wonder how Hillary Clinton feels, now that she’s endured months (even years) of name-calling and media scruntiny, to see Palin capitalize on all her hard work. (I don’t mean to imply that Palin hasn’t worked hard, but she has become successful by cultivating a non-threatening image.)

    In addition to that, I would have to say that I am uncomfortable with anyone assuming the vice presidency with Palin’s comparatively limited experience.

    However, your analysis of McCain’s strategy is once again dead on, historiann. Did you happen to see the picture in the NY times of Palin in her office? Surrounded by the bear skin? Wearing cute red heels? I think that pretty much summons it up.

  7. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 10:03 am #

    Well, ej–at least the Republicans think *some* kinds of women in politics are OK. So far this year, the Democrats have revealed themselves to be hostile to all women running for president or VP, whether they’re center-left (Clinton) or right-wing (Palin). And ej and Mary: right-wing women are women too, and their successes break glass ceilings, whether or not you like their policies. Palin has forcefully defended her political career against charges from the right that she hasn’t been doing her duty as a mother. I don’t see her as a “traditional wife” at all, although I’m sure she won’t claim the mantle of feminism–her blue-collar husband and the five kids makes her family look very, very familiar to a lot of American families. (And why shouldn’t she capitalize on Clinton’s work–if the Dems were dumb enough to demean and insult Clinton, why shouldn’t she make political hay out of it if she can? I say good on her!)

    And, GayProf: I know that Gore won more votes, but not enough to ensure that he would take office. And at this point, I’ll take a political victory over a moral victory!

  8. Homostorian Americanist on 30 Aug 2008 at 10:09 am #

    I must admit that I’ve been somewhat shocked at McCain’s choice — and even called Historiann for her reaction when, earlier yesterday, I didn’t see any post on Palin. I take all your points here, and while I think that you’re quite right that the many people fault her for an inexperience that other possible contenders for the post also shared, the fact remains: she doesn’t have that much experience. They might not have either, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that she also doesn’t have it. And that’s disturbing when he is 72 YEARS OLD! Plus there’s this business about firing her public safety commissioner for refusing to fire her former brother-in-law (involved in a nasty custody battle with her sister).

    But what horrifies me more than anything is that it all just seems so transparent: pick a woman so that all those women who supported Hillary will vote for McCain/Palin. Like all that’s necessary is that she have a vagina. The reason that many people (yours truly included) were excited by Hillary is that she was not just a woman but that she advocated FOR women. The Clinton choice was feminist in two respects, Palin only in one. And that, to me, just seems so insulting — and the use of Hillary’s “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling,” even more so. I think this is very much related to ej’s comments as well: she’s such a particular type of woman, non-threatening and motherly and pretty. While there are not a wealth of other choices for McCain if he was bound and determined to have a woman, there were some and yet they all might have been a little too assertive for him.

  9. ej on 30 Aug 2008 at 10:17 am #

    I do think you are painting with too broadly a brush here, Historiann. Many democrats, both voters and elected officials, supported Hillary. She was endorsed by a number of party leaders. To suggest that all Dems are hostile to women really isn’t fair. She lost, yes, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t enjoy a lot of support during her campaign. Both parties should be chastised for the absence of female elected officials, but the Dems still lead the Republicans on this issue.

    And it seems to me that not all Republicans are happy with McCain’s choice either.

    That aside, I do think the bottom line is what has been expressed above. McCain met this woman once before he put in the call, and that makes me question not just his judgment, but his sanity. You would think you might want to spend a wee bit more time than, say, 30 seconds, before picking a VP-even if you don’t think they do anything. Especially when you’re 72!

  10. Homostorian Americanist on 30 Aug 2008 at 10:21 am #

    Sorry, one last thing. I’m a little confused by something. In your response above, you say: “the Democrats have revealed themselves to be hostile to all women running for president or VP, whether they’re center-left (Clinton) or right-wing (Palin).” Who are “the Democrats” here? Because, as we all know, 18 million of them weren’t hostile at all. And a number of remarkably prominent Democrats (men and women) endorsed Hillary early on and supported her throughout. The bottom line is that she lost, but she lost fair and square. I am disappointed by this. I wish she had won. But she hasn’t. And while there’s no question that the reporting and coverage about her were often biased and sexist at times, and that some Democrats also have been both, I think it would be a mistake to insist that that’s the only reason she lost. While Obama was not my choice, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the only reason he was chosen by so many is simply that he’s a man and Hillary is a woman: it’s far more complicated than that. She’s a woman with a husband who can’t shut up and says inappropriate things when campaigning on her behalf, and a history of supporting a war in Iraq, and a penchant for speaking negatively about an opponent who was always adamant about taking a “high road.” I still supported her but these are some of the reasons that others didn’t, and they’re not totally illegitimate. And it doesn’t mean that those Obama supporters are necessarily hostile to women.

  11. This is What a Feminist Looks Like? « Knitting Clio on 30 Aug 2008 at 10:43 am #

    [...] for two excellent related posts, see this one by Historiann, and this one by Tenured Radical] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sarah Palin and [...]

  12. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 10:46 am #

    Maybe I was broad-brushing the sexism among Democrats, but it’s disingenuous to say that it was only the media and not the Democratic Party that slammed Clinton. Many in the party supported her, that’s true, but the leadership–Howard Dean on down–didn’t make any effort to criticize the media sh*tstorm against one of their own candidates. That’s just bad for morale and party discipline, and that’s why Obama (at least up to the convention) hasn’t unified the party. He won–but only just barely, and he hasn’t done as well as McCain in shoring up his base.

    And, I think attacking Palin on her lack of experience is a loser. Attack her because her policies are wrong and they will hurt women and families. But Obama doesn’t have the fattest resume either, and he’s at the top of the ticket. Any talk about experience (or lack thereof) will hurt him more than it will hurt McCain/Palin.

  13. Notorious Ph.D. on 30 Aug 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Wow, H. Okay, this has me rethinking some things.

    Still, I’m going to stick to the core of my reaction: that this was an entirely cynical choice by the McCain campaign (and an insulting misreading of Clinton supporters), and that sex/gender had a lot to do with it.

  14. mary on 30 Aug 2008 at 11:58 am #

    I respect Palin for having as you say “forcefully defending her political career against charges from the right that she hasn’t been doing her duty as a mother,” and balancing parenthood and a career like so many men have done without scrutiny. However, I think she has only been successful at this because she is pro-life and on the right—both Pelosi and Clinton’s children were grown up when they took office. But right or left, maybe your right that Pelosi’s working mother image will help all future female politicians.

    I can’t say I am that optimistic about it though. As you point out, its still upsetting that Obama passed over Clinton and has failed to unite the party. And just plain irritating that as Homostorian says best, “pick a woman so that all those women who supported Hillary will vote for McCain/Palin. Like all that’s necessary is that she have a vagina.”

  15. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    Notorious, gender is only part of what Palin offers. She’s also a cultural conservative, a Westerner, and a Governor. And, this isn’t about Clinton supporters! (But it will be a bonus to him if the Dems attack Palin and that ends up depressing the Dem women’s vote.)

    This is about McCain reclaiming his “Maverick” and reformer stance, shoring up his base, and challenging Obama’s change message. And even if his only goal was to rile up Dems, I’d say he has succeeded masterfully!

    And, Mary: would it really be so great for women to have been totally ignored by the Republican party too? Would it be better or worse for them if McCain had picked Huckabee or Romney? Why do people only worry about “essentialism” when women candidates are in the picture? Why isn’t it OK for women to want their candidates to have something in common with them, and to think that their candidates know something about the reality of their lives? No one got angry about Joe Biden or suggested that Obama was only pandering to the while male senior citizen vote by picking Biden. And yet wasn’t that part of the calculation? Criticism of Biden was restricted to his politics, and to the fact that he’s from a small state.

    I think the kerfluffle over Palin is just further evidence that we have far, far too few women in high political office. The few who are there–Clinton, Palin, and the other women U.S. Senators and Governors–end up getting totally overanalyzed.

  16. amy on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    Historiann, I liked your posting. And I can’t believe the patronizing sexism with which big media and liberals have responded to Palin.

    One of CNN’s (male) political correspondents asked Dana Basher how Palin could properly care for her disabled child if she became vice president. I mean, they obviously wouldn’t ask that about a male candidate!

    Other pundits were saying they felt sorry for her because Biden would wipe the floor with her in a debate. Okay, is it me or does Biden ramble on like a total idiot most of the time (he was frightening during Anita Hill, telling Thomas his problem was that he just didn’t understand women)…

    As for the VP debate, all Palin has to do is be competent and prepared and people will give her a pass, given her underdog status.

    Of course, I’m not voting for her, though it’d be cool if she were the first working-mom VP — nannies in tow — or her husband were the world’s most famous stay at home Dad – this would be feminism whether conservatives acknowledge it or not. And that’s a really fun prospect.

    Despite my lifelong Democratic leanings, I can’t help but admire McCain for exploiting Obama’s failure re Hillary. I am among those liberals with a soft spot for McCain, what can I say? Interesting and risky chess move…. could get pretty dicey!

  17. amy on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:07 pm #

    One last note… anyone want to wonder aloud why McCain didn’t pick Kay Baily H., Christine T. W. or Carly F? I think the fact that Palin is younger and more attractive is a factor — and the issue of discrimination against senior women is something that is worth thinking about. The “HQ,” hotness quotient, still wins out even when choosing a leader of the free world. peace out…

  18. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:09 pm #

    Hi, Amy! It’s been a while. Welcome back.

    I think you’re exactly right: she’ll be treated like George W. Bush against Al Gore and John Kerry in the debates. So long as she gets through the debates without being totally humiliated, it will be a win for her. And Biden will be in a bit of a box himself, in that he can’t be as aggressive with her as he might have been against Romney or Huckabee. (Remember in 2000 when Rick Lazio got in Hillary Clinton’s face, and she flinched and stepped back? Lazio was behind at that point, but he sealed Clinton’s election to the Senate that day because he looked like a bully.)

    When will the Dems learn to just shut the heck up about her?

  19. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:12 pm #

    Amy–on your last point: I don’t think it’s beauty, although that doesn’t hurt. I think it’s more the Western, gun-totin’, cultural conservative angle. Christine Todd Whitman and Carly Fiorina aren’t right-wing enough and wouldn’t have helped with the Dobson crowd. I don’t know why not Kay Baily Hutcheson–except that Senators have long track records of obscure votes that can be dredged up and will have to be defended. And Palin’s background as a governor is attractive in a year when we’ve already got 3 Senators on the national major party tickets.

  20. mary on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    A lot of questions here historiann. I don’t feel like I can answer them all adequately without talking to you! In short, I don’t think that McCain’s choice of Palin is really about including more of a “womens voice” in the Republican party. Maybe this isnt giving Palin enough credit—but her policies seem much more about maintaining the status quo.

    I think she is a better choice than Huckabee or Romney—her image as Washington outsider who fights corruption is great for the Republicans.

    And I think that you’re right to critique essentialism and women and politics, but isn’t Palin a culprut in this as well? Doesn’t she describe herself as “an average hockey mom,” making motherhood crucial to her image? Didn’t Hillary try to combat this and make her campaign more about her policies? I know you have pegged her as a “be” candidate and maybe she is wise for to cultivate her image this way, as people will only critique her abilites as a woman and mother anyway—something that Biden doesn’t have to deal with, as no one asks or cares if he goes to his kids hoceky games. I think we can agree that we would perfer a political system where selling a image was less important and gender didn’t matter.

  21. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    Mary, I agree with you that “including more of a ‘womens voice’ in the Republican party” was not at all paramount in McCain’s thinking. But, it may end up having that effect, no?

    I don’t think her policies are about maintaining the status quo, however: she’s about rolling back the status quo, but because she is an appealing “hockey mom,” she doesn’t look quite as reactionary as an older white man with the same record and policies would. And yes, she’s playing it up because it’s smart Republican politics, which matter a heck of a lot more to her than smart feminist politics!

  22. amy on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:26 pm #

    I don’t know Historian… This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry’s good looking girlfriend could talk her way into sold-out movies — there are a lot of conservative senior women out there…. AND I think McCain has a roving eye. This is not a comment on Palin’s achievements but on male response to her appearence, btw.

    On other matters, I’m a little disappointed you didn’t weigh in on the celebration of her fifth child — both for pro-life and pro-fertility reasons.

    I respect Palin’s decision immensely but I resent the suggestion that this is the way everyone needs to live their life! On the other hand, maybe conservatives see the Obama 2-child example and feel oppressed by that as well…

    sign me,

    Two is enough….

  23. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » “Should Obama have picked Hillary?” on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    [...] I think Historiann nails it when she says: Democrats have gotten really good at not taking their opponents seriously and acting superior to [...]

  24. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    Two terms for GWB? Or two kids?

    Kidding. (I assume you mean both!)

    There’s so much to say about Palin, that I didn’t even get to her youngest child. There’s a link in the new post above that talks about that more explicitly. I think the large family is reassuring to cultural conservatives that she doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. And her visibility now (and possible victory in November) might be good for parents of trisomy kids and other children with disabilities. It’s just too, too bad that the party platform she stands on will preserve the privatized status quo in which families who have disabled children are totally on their own financially. In my opinion, families with disabled children would be a great way to sell universal health care–no one did anything to “deserve” their sick or disabled children, and it really could happen to anyone who has a child. But while Palin could ostensibly be an effective advocate for directing more research dollars to genetic diseases and disabilities, she and her party won’t do the thing that would mean the most for families with disabled children: ensure that health care is a human right, and not a private luxury or responsibility.

  25. Indyanna on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    I don’t know how “non-threatening” Palin is perceived, in Alaska, anyway, if as alleged, she leaned on and then fired a cabinet level subordinate as a way of
    dealing with an ex-inlaw state trooper for messing with her sister. Nothing at all admirable about this kind of administrative behavior, mind you, if it’s true, but it’s how American governors have often behaved from before Huey Long to the day before yesterday, and it seems like she picked up on the drill. I’m not sure she can get “Quayled” here, in the “deer in the headlights” sense of that term. And I’m not at all sure this is quite who Team Obama imagined Joe Biden debating against.

  26. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    Good points, Indyanna. What’s wrong with a little political knee-capping, now and then? (Especially if it’s done by a harmless looking little old hockey mom?)

  27. Profane on 30 Aug 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    2 cents from a northeast RINO. . .

    Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal (the governor of Louisiana) were probably the two most talked about dark horse veep candidates since McCain wrapped up the nomination. In Republican circles her selection is not much more than a minor surprise.

    If appealing to disaffected Hillary supporters was a rationale for the decision, it was not likely near the top of the list. A rough ordering:
    1. Appealing to the Fundamentalist base, which has been McCain’s principle weak point in-party.
    2. Reinforcing McCain’s ‘maverick’ image, by picking a running mate who has fought corruption in her own party, and won.
    3. Appealing to the libertarian wing of the Republican party, and moderates, who have become disaffected over politics as usual.
    4. Appealing to the those who have adopted a ‘drill here, drill now, drill often’ attitude towards energy issues.
    5. Setting a trap for the Obama campaign on the ‘experience’ issue.

    I think Historiann nailed it. This choice is not about attempting to win the feminist vote.


  28. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 2:10 pm #

    Hi, Profane–thanks for stopping by to comment! Your comments reveal the extent to which the blogosphere can be very provincial (or the extent to which I can be very provincial, anyway!) I don’t read Republican blogs very often, and so was taken by surprise by the Palin pick.

    Please come back and bring us news from RINO-land. We’ve got a lot of them out here in the West, like the two friends I mentioned in the post, but it’s always good to get more news from other Republican friends. I was just thinking that this year does not feel like Dole/Kemp in 1996 to me. McCain seems to have succeeded in getting his party’s attention and interest–and to have raised their hopes that he might actually pull it off.

  29. Professor Zero on 30 Aug 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    I am a registered Democrat and I have never voted for any member of the Clinton family – they are just too right wing for me. Why is it that I had to be for CLINTON so as not to be seen as antifeminist? Why is it that being for MCKINNEY doesn’t count?

  30. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    Prof. Zero–I’ve never said that anyone had to support Hillary Clinton to prove their feminist creds. But no feminist could stand by without decrying the unjust, unfair ways in which both Clinton and now Palin are being talked about, mocked, and criticized, even if it benefitted her candidate. Throughout the primary, I never made essentialist arguments about supporting Clinton. This blog has been all about calling out the unfair coverage of and attacks on her campaign, mostly from the media and her fellow Democrats. That’s why I’m not going to stand idly by and laugh along with the MILF jokes about Palin. They’re offensive and wrong, but moreover, I think they’re a political mistake if Dems want to win this year.

    And I’ve never, ever said that McKinney doesn’t count! I’ve given thought to voting for her myself.

  31. Professor Zero on 30 Aug 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    (P.S. Sorry to sound so sour but I have often thought that all of the stuff about how if you didn’t agree with the Clinton policy proposals you were anti-feminist was just a cheap way to demean people who weren’t for the Iraq war, NAFTA, etc. I find it interesting that someone like me could be considered to “demean” far more powerful women like Clinton and this Palin. Humph.)

  32. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    Prof. Zero–I never said that any criticism of Clinton was inherently sexist–criticism of her policies and positions on the issues is totally fair game. I just don’t think that’s how she got beat. I’m not for the war, or NAFTA, or the FISA compromise, etc. but that’s not where the political conversations centered during the primary (perhaps in large part because Obama’s positions were nearly if not in fact identical to Clinton’s.)

    I think feminists can and must speak up to shame a political discourse that focuses on Palin’s body, hair, cleavage, beauty pageant history, attractiveness, pantsuits, glasses, and children, and that we should insist that she be treated like any other male candidate. I also don’t think that Dems should hold back from criticizing her on her politics and stands on the issues. I’m sure Palin would be the first to say, treat me just like a man–I sure as heck can take it!

  33. amy on 30 Aug 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Historiann, I think you’re right. There’s no reason to call Palin a bimbo or assume she’s not a capable pol.

    As for how she influences people, her husband is going to be the full-time parent, according to the People Mag interview, so this example alone will get people thinking about gender roles and men’s responsibilities in child-rearing. Sorry ’bout that, Fundies! Even conservative women want to be breadwinners and delegate full-time child-rearing! So you can just stop criticizing feminists for doing it!

    Yes, I do think Palin got some big unearned breaks but then again, I don’t blame her for taking advantage of them…. any smart person would and there’s every reason, at this point, to think she’s savvy.

    So let’s oppose her for the right reasons and acknowledge her achievements.

  34. amy on 30 Aug 2008 at 4:18 pm #

    Hey, did you hear McCain is raking in the money because evangelicals are so excited about Palin? Tell me, Historiann, are they charged up in the bible belt because Palin was a political reformer? Or is it because she’s a woman who didn’t have an abortion! How much is one woman’s womb/pregnancy/fertility worth???? In money and in votes?

    Seriously, I will stop now.

  35. Historiann on 30 Aug 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    I have heard this–I heard somewhere that McCain raised $3M on Friday after the Palin announcement, but I couldn’t find a link and so didn’t want to repeat an unsourced rumor.

    I guess I’d say that the evangelicals are savvy political animals and know which side their bread is buttered on, so they’re rewarding good behavior. It’s too bad Democrats don’t cater to their base the way the Republicans do–instead of shoring up his base among Democratic women, Obama spent much of the summer chasing after evangelical voters. I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea of making Clinton his running mate, for various reasons, but just imagine the good will and money that would have flowed toward Obama had he done that. (How much dough did Biden bring in?)

    And Amy: Don’t stop! Belivin’ about tomorrow! Don’t stop! It’ll soon be here!

  36. amy on 30 Aug 2008 at 11:30 pm #

    if you think the mccain money surge was innuendo, Historiann, ya might want to check out daily kos’s allegations. getting crazy out there

  37. hysperia on 30 Aug 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    Ah Historiann, I was waiting for you to weigh in and I’m not disappointed. I think I took my first deep breath since the announcement of Palin for VP when reading this post – which means, of course, that I agree! I think the choice is confusing to many people and, in many ways, that’s good for McCain. Everyone will spend a great deal of time trying to figure it out and what could be better publicity? She’s going to be front and centre for the rest of the campaign and that may well be to McCain’s advantage as well. Of COURSE the choice of Palin is a cynical one – it’s a POLITICAL choice after all. Tell me the choice of Biden wasn’t a cynical choice, meant to reassure many Americans that Obama isn’t a scary black Muslim dood if a “regular” guy like Biden, with his lovely white family is associated with him. And other things. Of COURSE Palin is a scarey choice to feminists, with her radical anti-abortion, anti-same-sex, creationist ideology. She’s a CONSERVATIVE for heaven sakes. She buttresses McCain in all his weaknesses. He’s seen by conservatives to be soft on abortion. She doesn’t even believe in abortion in cases of rape and incest. And of course she embodies contradiction. We all do, but conservative women in public life do so more, perhaps, than others. On the other hand, think Clarence Thomas and other African Americans who stand against affirmative action and strong support for civil and human rights. Think Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady”. They achieve their positions in good part because they stand on the shoulders of feminism and civil rights activism, but in their own terms, this allows them to be “exceptions” – Palin is a woman, which proves that Reprobates aren’t anti-woman; but she fits fairly firmly into the “family values” rhetoric, even if she is only an exception to the rule that women should be at home with the kids, tending to the needs of their families – that’s MOST women, you see. And MOST women at home would be fine with the Reprobates.

    I think it would be deadly for the Dems to underestimate the power of this choice. She’s not meant to appeal to feminists and liberals. She’s meant to appeal to conservative Democrats, Independents and those Republicans who may have been thinking of voting for Obama because they haven’t been convinced by McCain’s conservative credentials. And her apparent attractiveness to many men fits right in with the stinky proposition I’ve often heard voiced that you can retain your “femininity” and still be strong.

  38. Sarah Palin Sexism Watch « mirabile dictu on 30 Aug 2008 at 11:45 pm #

    [...] see Historiann’s analysis of the Palin choice, excellent as [...]

  39. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 7:57 am #

    Hi Hysperia–thanks for the compliments. I also think that her identity as a rural person and a Westerner also gives her more flexibility with embodying the contractions you cite. Most of us are bundles of ideological contradictions, but I’ve found that in the rural West, although people may be culturally and politically conservative, women do a lot of the work and play leadership roles here that they don’t in the officially “liberal” big cities and blue states.

    And, Amy: daily kos? I haven’t read it since last winter, when it became a hate site as far as I’m concerned.

  40. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 8:26 am #

    Amy, I clicked on DailyKos–it looks like they’re getting set to cherchez la femme in the event of a McCain loss. (Just like they’re going to blame Hillary Clinton in the event of an Obama loss!)

    So, it’s a twofer for the misogyny party! Blame Palin if McCain loses, and blame Hillary if he wins. Sweet!

  41. Ahistoricality on 31 Aug 2008 at 8:48 am #

    we never heard what a totally ridiculous choice other first-term governors like Tim Kaine, Charlie Christ, or Bobby Jindal would be.

    I admit, I’m not a pundit, or a big blogger (nor do I read first-tier or even most second-tier commentators), but I thought they were just as unqualified as I think Palin is, and equally likely to be picked primarily because of their interest group checkoff potential. They were all on the list because of their tactical value.

    This has been a good election season for Republicans: they’ve been allowed a pretty much total pass on their sexism, and even their racism.

  42. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 8:59 am #

    Good point, Ahistoricality–they’ve ducked scrutiny and allowed the Democratic infighting to proceed apace. And the Dems have been happy to oblige them!

    My bet though if any of those men had been selected, they would not have been subjected to the same derision and mockery that Palin has already endured in 48 hours. Choosing one of them would have been hailed as “visionary” and “about the future!” ((Barf.))

  43. amy on 31 Aug 2008 at 9:57 am #

    Historiann, not sure if you read the Daily Kos entry I had in mind… see if this link to Daily Kos will work.

    If Palin’s political capital among evangelicals depends entirely upon her not having had an abortion, then what happnes if she never had the baby in the first place?

  44. Dave M on 31 Aug 2008 at 11:05 am #

    “Another friend, a Republican who’s become disgusted by her party in the Bush years, [is] giving the McCain ticket a serious look because she likes the notion of a Westerner and a hunter as a VP.”

    I don’t get it. Isn’t the current VP – the one in office during the very years in which this woman became disgusted by the party, and in fact (I would imagine) a man partly responsible for that disgust – himself a Westerner and a hunter? (Okay, not a very good hunter, but still.)

  45. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 11:43 am #

    Amy, I see what you mean. If Dems think that going after her children and/or grandchildren is a good strategy, they will be sorely disappointed. There are a lot of complicated families out there.

    And Dave M–thanks for stopping by to comment. Please note that the comments about her as a Westerner and hunter were followed by, “And there’s no question but that Palin’s stance as a tough working mother appeals to me and my friends, across partisan lines.” You may not get it in any case, but a lot of Republican women do!

  46. amy on 31 Aug 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    Attacking a mom who is raising her grandchild is one thing. Exposing someone as INSANE (which you’d have to do to try to pull off a faked pregnancy, especially as a public official) is legitimate.

    Sometimes, Historiann, I think that you might be too quick to label questions about Palin’s character as sexism. Of course her character is fair game.

    Do you think anyone would hold back if a male pol had a crazy hidden life or an unexplained baby?

    I’m thinking… Edwards

    There’s also the radio show appearence in which Palin laughed audibly as a (female) rival was described as a “bitch” and a “cancer.” The rival was s cancer survivor… and I take that personally. But hey, she’s great with an AK47! So maybe I’ll vote for her???

  47. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 2:59 pm #

    Amy, I see what you’re saying, but that “article” was all innuendo, and DailyKos is not a news site. Anyone can say anything about anybody in the world, no matter how false or slanderous. That “article” was entirely speculative–”if this is true, then she’s a total LIAR!–so there can be no questions about her character. (“What if Joe Biden had a secret alien love child with Elvis???” Then we’d really have a scandal on our hands!) If/when legitimate newsgathering organizations investigate and turn up real evidence, then I’ll pay attention. It would mean the end of her political career to be found out like that–like a bad re-run of Desperate Housewives. It would also reveal the McCain team as the worst vetters of any VP nomination in recent American history!

    Dems should focus on Palin’s policy positions, and leave her family, her body, her leaking amniotic fluid, and her youngest child, etc., out of it. This scrutiny of her body, and of what it can and can’t do, is really over the top and recalls femicidal witchcraft investigations in early modern Europe and early America. I bet DailyKos would like to subject her body to an investigation by midwives, to determine whether or not she has given birth recently, and whether or not she has witches teats for the devil to suckle…

    Finally, I’m sorry to hear that Palin used language like the kind you describe to talk about another woman–very tacky. I’m not surprised–and that’s the kind of thing that raises legitimate questions about her character. But, that still doesn’t make it OK to use the same language to talk about her. (And moreover, I think it’s just dumb politics.) But it’s fair game to go after her for that, since it’s part of her political record.

  48. Shinhao Li on 31 Aug 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    Hi Historiann:

    Washed ashore from Instapundit…I think you have it exactly right. This is not about die-hard Hillary supporters. Any primary voter is almost, by definition, a high-information voter who will choose issues first, not biology or biography. Republicans haven’t won the White House 28 out of the last 40 years by being stupid.

    As you mention, Governor Palin for VP has serious tactical benefits: enthusiasm from the conservative base, reformist credentials, blue-collar authenticity, cross-over appeal, and immediate media magnetism. Her biography is basically a giant club with which to bash Obama-Biden as effete posers.

    But I think the REAL advantages are the strategic ones.

    1. Gives conservatives a new narrative on women’s rights. The conventional media simply will not give a conservative woman the light of day. This forces national attention on a woman who is socially conservative, has five children, yet has a powerful job, and a devoted husband who supports her career. She’s done it all. This gives immediate political realignment to all the women who are juggling career and family, with a living example of some one who has done it.

    2. Sets up the conservative base for the next 10 years. A moderate McCain VP pick would have been disastrous for the Republican party. If Lieberman had been VP, and McCain wins, he would have been the front-runner in the next Republican primary! The Republicans are going through a changing of the guard to the post baby-boomers, and this sets the tone. The next wave of Republican candidates will be Reagan-revolution governors. Sets the tone for the farm team.

    3. Preserves the Republican advantage on “authenticity”. Regrettably, politics is not really about issues, but authenticity. Obama talks about his single mom, Biden about Scranton, and McCain about his daredevil fighter-pilot days. We have a VP that is a PTA mom, hunts and eats game, and helps her husband on weekends on a fishing boat. The husband is a steelworker union member, fisherman, and a snowmobile champion. None of this has to do with actual ability to govern. It’s all about authenticity, and Palin blows them all out of the water.

    Americans are basically never going to elect a person who has plotted to be president since they were 15. The ideal American president is someone who half-stumbled into politics, found out they were very good at it, shot to national fame, and ran for president. Why? Authenticity. Good politicians don’t run as a good politicians. They run as good people, who happen to find themselves running for president.

  49. Shinhao Li on 31 Aug 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    Oops…didn’t finish that thought.

    That’s why the inexperience attack won’t stick. Besides the obvious counterattacks, it just doesn’t matter. Americans don’t care. Besides, Democrats have spent a year telling Americans experience doesn’t matter, just look at Dick Cheney.

    The only concern is, will Palin make a fool of herself. The media will watch her like a hawk. Like Hillary, she stands between the Anointed One and Anointment, and the media will not be forgiving. She has the additional sin of being Republican. Luckily for us Republicans, we have a convention and debates. Two events where the media is forced to show things as presented, without gratuitous editing and bloviation. Palin has a chance to introduce and define herself, on her own terms.

  50. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    Welcome, Shinhao Li–great points. What I find very refreshing is how you don’t mention her sex at all. That may sound surprising coming from a women’s history blogger, but I’ve been appalled and amazed at the punditry today that has obsessed about her sex to the exclusion of all of the other things she brings to the ticket and the party. That’s one thing among a laundry list of many other things, as you point out.

    And, I think you’re exactly right about the authenticity card: if she holds up under pressure and doesn’t blow it in obvious ways, that’s the McCain campaign secret weapon. She will have a lot of appeal to Republican and independent women who will be excited to think that someone like them could be VP. And you’re right too that the Republicans need some new-generation faces to showcase–she just might fill the bill.

    The only thing you say that I’m not totally on board with is, “Americans are basically never going to elect a person who has plotted to be president since they were 15.” We did it at least twice, with Bill Clinton! (And I say that as someone who likes and admires Bill Clinton.) But I agree with you that authenticity is important, as is luck and being in the right place at the right time.

  51. Shinhao Li on 31 Aug 2008 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for your gracious reply!

    Yes, the media is ridiculously tone-deaf. I can’t stand them, but unfortunately the company break-room is perpetually on MSNBC. But it was fun to watch their total, demoralized, panic.

    About mentioning her sex – I’ve found that the universal, unconditional acclimation Palin received from the Right has had particular resonance with women’s activists. As if to say, finally, genuine respect. If I may be a salesman for a bit, I believe we have the conservative emphasis on individual achievement and merit to thank for that. Palin took on the Republican Alaska establishment and rose to the governorship totally unassisted. The roaring applause she got comes from a recognition of those achievements. That conservatives issue such approval so sparingly gives it more meaning.

    Her sex obviously mattered – just as being attractive and likable matter – but, as you say, it’s only one of a laundry list of items.

    Now, Bill Clinton…well, I wonder if he would have been elected had Ross Perot not been around…but I’d rather not nitpick. But yes, authenticity.

    Now for an unrelated question – do you distinguish between “sex” and “gender”? I ask because most people use “gender”, due to a Puritanical allergy to the word “sex”, but you did not.

  52. Historiann on 31 Aug 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    The sex/gender split is one that would take us deep into the weeds of feminist theory…I use sex when I mean someone’s apparent chromosomes (XX or XY) and cringe when I hear people misuse the more complicated term of gender incorrectly. (Such as, “what is the baby’s gender?” Ick.) Maybe one reason people use “gender” now more too because they think that sex = sexuality, as you say, which is a related but different concept. For some reason, people percieve the word “gender” as softer and less threatening, which if you follow feminist and queer theory is not. (But, you probably don’t!)

    I have to hand it to McCain and the Republicans: they’ve laid a tremendous trap for the Dems, which the Dems seem to be falling right into with these juvenille, disgusting attacks on Palin. See Zuzu’s “Doing Karl Rove’s Work for Him” at Shakesville, another feminist blog, for the analysis.

  53. Shinhao Li on 31 Aug 2008 at 9:29 pm #

    I see…I normally don’t make a distinction between the two words in my everyday writing, but I sensed that you did. Glad to see I was right! I don’t follow feminist theory, but I can see how distinguishing between gender and sex is necessary, for obvious reasons.

    Thanks for the link, Zuzu’s analysis is very astute. But I have to say, Republicans are not as diabolically cunning as she makes them out to be. This wasn’t planned out. Democrats are used to being able to get away with sexist and racist comments that Republicans would be crucified for. Remember Biden’s “clean and articulate” comment? Not a word from the media now – the media covers for them. But when Democrats start turning the guns on each other, it becomes instantly clear who the media favors. The Obama camp can unload on Clinton, and now Palin, with no consequence. That someone like Palin could exist is an affront to many liberal groups – she is a walking contradiction to them. Like Condi Rice. Like Clarence Thomas. Race-traitor, sexist collaborator, et cetera. These liberal groups then go supernova with rage and spill their bile nationwide. They are accustomed to getting away with it.

    Republicans are used to this. There was no need to plan for this. This is as natural as gravity. Karl Rove? No, common sense.

    Gandhi once said, the problem with Christianity are the Christians. A similar situation exists for me and the Obama Left. They are simultaneously arrogant and juvenile, and I just can’t take the Democratic party seriously. There are no adults. That leaves me with the Republican party, warts and all.

  54. Historiann on 01 Sep 2008 at 7:22 am #

    Shinhao Li, your analysis of the Dems is one that many Dems share this year! It grieves many of us that many others within the party fail to walk the walk on our ideological commitments to anti-sexism and anti-racism. There’s a big book to be written about class bias and the sliming of Bill and Hillary Clinton by their own party and the Washington establishment. Despite their official commitments to the poor and working class, Democrats have royalist tendencies (Roosevelts, Kennedys) and have treated their non-aristocratic presidents and presidential hopefuls with disdain (the Clintons, and more recently, John Edwards perhaps.)

    And you’re right: the Dem circular firing squad ends up doing at least 75% of the work for the Republicans, so they don’t need to engage in diabolical machinations, they can just make the popcorn and enjoy the show!

  55. Palin, polls, and election follow-up : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 01 Sep 2008 at 7:59 am #

    [...] it would have been smart political judo for McCain to come out in support of equal pay.  But, as I have argued elsewhere, Palin is on the ticket because of her reputation as an ideologue.  Most pundits and bloggers are [...]

  56. Shinhao Li on 01 Sep 2008 at 9:27 am #

    The ‘SCLM’ enables them. When they’ve been able to call Bush as Hitler, soldiers as rapists and child-killers (Haditha? Never actually happened…), and just about whatever comes to mind, for eight years, it warps their minds. They have a have a functional Tourette syndrome – they have gotten used to saying whatever they wanted, and now they are unable to control what they say, it just flows out of the primal recesses of their psyches. They may clothe their rhetoric with logic, but underneath there is only naked animal rage.

    Even today – the Kos left absurdly accuses Palin’s fifth child of actually being her granddaughter. And we have that ridiculous “troopergate” ethics investigation. This is classic rope-a-dope. McCain will wait for the these stories to foam up a bit, hit a few news cycles before counterattacking. If you know anything about the troopergate story, you know she is not the bad guy. The trooper in question drank on the job, and used a service weapon (taser) on his own child. He was using Palin’s conflict-of-interest as a way to keep himself from being fired! Palin will be a hero to all domestically-abused women after this story breaks.

    The Democrats (at least the Obama camp) cannot execute strategy. When you watch the media, what you are actually watching is the Obama camp thinking out-loud to itself. Within literally seconds of the Palin pick, they were giving the Obama attack. They only grudgingly cover Republican counter-attacks, after they have been spoken. This is a blessing in disguise. The Democrats have a fawning, breathless media to satiate, like a puppy begging for attention while you try to read. It certainly doesn’t help when Obama campaign staff are contemplating future careers as CNN and MSNBC “analysts”. News-leak city. Republicans have the luxury to wait, think, and time their moves.

    McCain keep his VP pick secret, then reveals it at the time and place of his choosing for maximal effect. Obama belatedly sends a text message at 3AM.

    You guys have to distance yourselves from the media. America utterly despises the media.

    Let me finish by saying, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, most left-wing blogs are not nearly as hospitable. Thank you so much.

  57. Historiann on 01 Sep 2008 at 9:43 am #

    Shinhao Li, I agree with you that Dems are making the same dumb mistake in thinking the media are their friends. Running against the media–while infiltrating and setting up a mirror right-wing media establishment–is one of the best strategies that the Republicans have rolled out in the last 40 years…

    Have a good Labor Day!

  58. ej on 01 Sep 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Yes, Shinhao Li, Historiann is a very hospitable host when it comes to her blog, but I have to say, as a reader, I’m offended by your two most recent posts, which cross the line. If you appreciate the opportunity to engage in the discussion, as you suggest you do, perhaps you should consider your audience and leave aside the inaccurate, hostile, and over the top rants. They really don’t do much to further the conversation.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to point out all of the inaccuracies or unfounded attacks you levy above, they are so numerous…and transparent.

  59. Shinhao Li on 01 Sep 2008 at 10:37 am #

    Hi ej:

    Yes, you’re right – after re-reading, my tone was inappropriate, particularly given the audience. I apologize.

    Please understand that my frustration was meant to be directed at the media, which does no favors for American democracy – I stand by my statements, which I believe to be factually correct (well, except for “no adults”).

    The points I wanted to make were:

    1. The media is not nearly as critical of their favored Democratic politicians as everyone else. This gives these favored groups the latitude to make sexist and racist comments without consequence, to their public detriment.

    2. The media seeks to help the Obama campaign by instantly responding to perceived attacks. This actually robs the Obama campaign of strategic latitude.

    3. Due to the media environment, the current Democratic party is characterized by juvenile political attacks, often with racist or sexist components, for short-term advantage, with no thought to to long-term strategy.

    Please note this has nothing to do with policy – nowhere do I criticize proposed Democratic policy. This is about campaign conduct.

  60. Historiann on 01 Sep 2008 at 10:38 am #

    Whoa, ej: Shinhao Li identified hirself as a Republican, so people can take hir comment’s for what they’re worth. (Clearly partisan, but so are the rest of us.) Moreover ze didn’t engage in any personal attacks on anyone here, so I don’t read any of the comments as violating this blog’s policies.

    I don’t necessarily point out everything that I disagree with in everyone’s posts. I strive to find common ground usually–and don’t fact-check absolutely everything.

  61. Historiann on 01 Sep 2008 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks, Shinhao Li, for clarifying. I acutally think ej may agree with all of your most recent points!

  62. hysperia on 01 Sep 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    The supposedly liberal blogosphere is looking just terrific (snark) right now, the Palin family having been forced into announcing the pregnancy and impending marriage of their 17-year old daughter, Bristol. I am disgusted with them all – now, their misogyny has led to them falling into their own trap. If it weren’t for the pain and embarassment caused to Palin’s daughter and very young future husband and his family, I’d laugh.

  63. Historiann on 01 Sep 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Yeah, Hysperia–super classy, eh?

    See my new post on just that!

  64. ej on 01 Sep 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    I guess I took offense to hearing the Obama campaign, and by implication their supporters, as “simultaneously juvenile and arrogant.” Plus even if the media is the target here, the implication is that they are in bed with the Obama campaign. When the two are conflated, the accusations can be read as offensive.

    There have actually recently been some studies done about the Media’s treatment of both candidates-the one at George Mason comes to mind. Not surprisingly, Obama has received a disproportionate share of the coverage. Perhaps surprisingly, an equally large percentage has been negative.

    I think if you read anything from the campaign (which cannot be automatically conflated with the “liberal media’) you will see a lot of complaints about their treatment in the media. I don’t think they consider them their friends, but rather much more critical of Obama than then are of McCain.

    Perhaps my key point here is that the media generally described, including liberal blogs, is not the same as the campaign. The campaign often takes very different positions.

  65. Historiann on 01 Sep 2008 at 9:50 pm #

    ej, many Obama supporters have been consistently “juvenille and arrogant,” and many of them appear to be determined to remain so, given the obnoxious attacks on Sarah Palin and her family. (Have you read Americablog, Talking Points Memo, and DailyKos lately? Please consider what you would think if there were a liberal democratic woman and her family under this kind of attack by right-wing blogs.)

    Like it or not, this behavior affects the way people see the candidate. (Remember how most of us on the left reacted to the knee-jerk jingoism, chest-thumping, and triumphalilsm of Bush partisans back in 2002-03, when our splendid little wars looked like they were going well?) Many people–some of them lifelong Dems who have been active in the party–are really stunned and don’t know how they’ll vote yet, because they don’t want to be affiliated with jerks and they don’t want to reward jerky behavior.

    And, the SCLM aren’t liberal, although the cheerleading for Obama by everyone over at MiSogNyBC has been undeniable (by everyone but Joe Scarborough).

    Hubris is an attitude Dems should steer clear of.

  66. ej on 01 Sep 2008 at 10:09 pm #

    I am well aware that some liberal blogs are behaving badly, but my point is that many aren’t (see Talk Left, which forbids any discussion of Palin’s personal life) and more importantly, the Obama campaign has been firmly against any discussion of these matters. I totally agree with you that sexist and personal attacks have no place in a political campaign, especially as a Democrat, whose party has been the target of them for so long. All I’m trying to do is encourage more careful language. Not all democrats are involved, and the whole party cannot control or be held responsible for what some blogs are saying. And phrases like “liberal media” suggest a uniformity of behavior that isn’t deserved.

  67. Shinhao Li on 01 Sep 2008 at 10:17 pm #


    Well, this is a tough topic to broach, since we are obviously on different sides. I am confusing the media, the Obama campaign, and Obama supporters to some degree, I admit.

    Let me put it this way. I perceive a liberal media bias, although the media can certainly unfairly portray Democrats. The Clinton sex scandals, for example, where the media and the Republicans were both atrocious. But when even Bill Maher is embarrassed by the media coverage of Obama, that is saying something.

    As I state previously, I believe this media coverage affects the way the Obama campaign acts. And I believe this encourages this juvenile/arrogant behavior, for the reasons stated previously.

    And certainly, some of Obama’s supporters, taking their cue from the media and the campaign, have proceeded to attack Clinton and now McCain/Palin with wanton abandon. I apologize if I had previously implied or given the impression that I meant all Obama supporters.

    The three elements (media, campaign, supporters) are linked and I am criticizing the behavior of all three. The only reason I am expending energy criticizing them is because I am seeking to explain the strategy behind the Palin pick as I see it. This is an academic endeavor for me – I’m not looking for converts here.

  68. ej on 01 Sep 2008 at 10:28 pm #

    Shinhao Li, I think one thing that we can probably agree on is that the McCain campaign has accomplished most of what it hoped to accomplish with the Palin pick. A big bump among religious conservatives, stealing the thunder from the Dems post-convention, and, perhaps most importantly, attracting the media’s attention, if not obsession, to irrelevant issues. I think you and I would both prefer to hear the candidates talk about policies, rather than personal lives. I also think that in the era of the blog, the line between media and supporters has become extremely blurred, and whether or not such outlets write with the approval of the campaign is even more murky.

    I guess its up to us to muddle through…

  69. Shinhao Li on 02 Sep 2008 at 6:16 am #


    I don’t mean to triangulate between you and ej, but yes, your points exactly.

    The question of how to vote is an interesting one, because your counterparts on the right, the hard-right social conservatives, have the same problem of being ignored by the Republican party.

    I say this with no pleasure, but the Religious Right, despite no where else to go, remains a powerful force in the conservative movement. Not overwhelming, but at least relevant. How? Recall the Bush 2000 campaign – he didn’t pay much attention to the religious base at all. They didn’t turn out, and (let’s not get into details) barely, somehow, won. He and Karl Rove didn’t forget that. Contrast that with Bush 2004. Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage! Outrageous, IMHO. 2004, he won, and not by a little.

    McCain, by sheer dumb luck, won the primary this year. He first won in NH, where he’s always been strong. (My grandmother lives there, and calls him John. “John’s coming this weekend to speak at the library.” Go figure.) He won in a field of five in South Carolina. Dumb luck. By virtue of winning two in a row, he became the front-runner from a field of lookalikes, and won Super Tuesday.

    I was happy, but the religious base wasn’t. They didn’t give him money, didn’t volunteer for his rallies, didn’t show support in any way. His approval among conservatives was 60~70%. He knew he had to do something, and he picked Palin. Witness the roar. 7 million USD in donations.

    Somehow, the Religious Right has been able to punish the Republican party without seriously hurting them. Nobody is stupid, and bluffs don’t work. They weren’t bluffing, they were actually willing to let Gore-Lieberman win. It was a near-death experience for the Bush team, and they never forgot it.

    BTW, I find your sex(gender?)-neutral personal pronouns interesting, I never seen those before. In what fields are they commonly used, if any?


    Fair enough – a more fact-based, less-sensational media – I’ll drink to that!

  70. Historiann on 02 Sep 2008 at 6:49 am #

    Shinhao Li–a very astute analysis. McCain is the candidate that no particular faction of the Republican party had any love for, but the party backed into nominating him anyway. I think the Palin nomination is best explained by his need to get the evangelicals on his side–the Western governor, moose-hunting, “maverick” reformer stuff is all a bonus. One thing I actually admire about the Bush/Cheney political operation is that they actually care about their base and pander to it–whereas huge swaths of the Democratic party are regularly dissed by their nominees! (And, as someone who has spent a lot of time in N.H., I have to say that McCain is a tailor-made candidate for that state. But, there were a LOT of Ron Paul signs there last year and this year!)

    ej: I respect Jeralyn’s decision at TalkLeft to forbid discussion of Palin’s private life, and I wish more blogs would follow her lead. I don’t get why you think that’s bad. However, she clearly thinks that Palin’s candidacy is a joke, whereas the other major contributor, Big Tent Democrat, agrees with me as to how to approach Palin, and ze’s been critical of the panty-sniffing slut-shaming all along…

    Once again, we see the happy accident that the Palin nomination not only makes a key element of the Republican base happy, but it sets Democrats at each other’s throats!

  71. ej on 02 Sep 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Historiann, I don’t think the position of Jeralyn at Talk Left is bad at all-merely citing that as one example of a liberal blog that isn’t participating in the personal smear, but trying to focus on policy. Which I applaud!

  72. Historiann on 02 Sep 2008 at 8:04 am #

    Oh–OK. Sorry for the misunderstanding, ej. But it’s one of the only ones, along with Corrente (which talks about the issue but most commenters strongly condemn that it’s an issue at all.) I like Shakesville, which is defending the Palin family’s right to privacy while decrying Sarah Palin’s politics.

  73. A tale of two Senators : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 25 Jan 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    [...] on leap-frogging up the seniority ladder, aren’t you?  Christ on a cracker, people:  now will you believe me about Sarah Palin?  Because Senator G went to Dartmouth, has a law degree from UCLA, and learned Chinese as a [...]

  74. Is Sarah Palin Good For Women? - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education on 21 Jun 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    [...] For details on Sarah Palin’s career, you can go to this article in the Los Angeles Times. For her official bio, including pictures of her family and of the Governor holding a dead caribou by its rack, click here. For a checklist of why Palin strengthens the McCain ticket among conservatives, go to the ever-reliable and witty Historiann. [...]

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