There are lots of women who have flirted with the McCain-Palin ticket following the addition of the first female Vice Presidential candidate since Geraldine Ferraro shared the ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984. Recent polls even indicate that white women are, on the whole, leaning toward the McCain-Palin ticket. Obama supporters have a visceral reaction to this news which usually involves cringing, and feelings of nausea.
But, it’s OK. Take a deep breath, and think about it. This is historic. This is the first time the Republican party has put a woman on the presidential ticket. Yes, the Democrats were there a quarter century ago, but it’s still historic. Palin hit the McCain campaign like a jolt from those little electric paddles that revive heart attack victims. (CLEAR! ….DZZZTT!….. It’s aliiiive!)
People in most of the country knew nothing about Sarah Palin, but what they were able to garner from first impression sounded pretty good – spunky, attractive, strong personality, reformer, down-to-earth hockey mom, youth, energy, special needs kid, great camera presence, confidence, and, of course, the surprise factor. We all love a surprise! So, why wouldn’t women be excited? The prospect of having someone in a position of power who comes at things from a completely different perspective than typical white male Washington insiders was….well….downright refreshing. And we love being refreshed, almost as much as we love being surprised.
However, to assume that this is the end of the story underestimates women. Granted, some will vote gender, just like some men will vote gender, and some of both genders will vote race. My team right or wrong. That’s just human nature.
But others will take the excitement over Palin’s presence on the ticket only as a starting point. They will like her until they have a reason not to. And those women are now being presented with some pretty good reasons not to. There has been so much information presented to the American people about Palin in the last few weeks, the facts are only now starting to settle out, and order themselves in our mental file cabinet. We’ve got a religion file, an environment file, a foreign policy file, a women’s issues file, an ethics file, and most of us have a few ‘gate’ files too – babygate, busgate, dairygate, bookgate, troopergate,….it’s mind boggling. But after our crash course in Palin 101, we are starting to make sense of things, and patterns begin to emerge.
The most important issue for women is Palin’s unwavering stance against reproductive rights for women and girls. The vast majority of women, even those who would categorize themselves as “pro-life” or “anti-abortion”, believe that exceptions should be made in the case of rape, or incest. Women who remember the dark days of back alley abortions, and the deaths of so many beautiful young women, know that abortion will never be eradicated. They want abortion to be safe, legal and rare, and they cannot relate to Palin’s position. Neither can women who really stop to think what life would be like in Palin’s America if their 12-year old daughter became pregnant after being raped by her father. Coupled with her position advocating ‘abstinence only’ sex education, this issue simply comes down on the wrong side for the vast majority of American women. The icing on the cake is the fact that as mayor of Wasilla, Palin fought lawmakers who wanted to stop Wasilla, from charging rape victims for their own forensic testing and ‘rape kits’ to the tune of up to $1200 per victim. Eventually formal legislation was passed to force Wasilla to abolish this practice since the mayor would not comply voluntarily. Most women, particularly victims of sexual assault, find this to be almost too outrageous to be believed.
Her policies on women’s issues, radical religious views, her anti-environmental and wildlife policies, lack of foreign policy experience, position on health care, unsettling ethics questions, along with her position on the war in Iraq, her sabre-rattling, and a host of other controversial issues cannot stay hidden. There is simply too much information out there, and it covers too wide a range of topics to be effectively suppressed. It may seem that there’s not enough time between now and the election to get this information ‘out there’, but think about what has happened since August 29th when McCain made the announcement he had selected Palin. There is time.
Palin’s nomination has not only energized the evangelical Republican “base”, it has energized women. It hasn’t energized all women yet. But, it has energized the ones who have done the research. And those women will talk to their friends. And more of the ones who haven’t had time to do the research, will start doing it. And the vice presidential debate will happen. And women will mobilize, just like the women did in Anchorage last Saturday at the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally. And those women brought men, and their teenage sons and daughters. I was there, at the largest rally in Alaskan history, and it was powerful. The presence of the women at that rally, waving signs that held Palin accountable for her radical views, gave permission to women everywhere to question, and learn, and think about where they cast their vote. Communication will happen. It can’t be stopped.
Add this to the mix. N.O.W. (the National Organization for Women) has come out with an official endorsement, not for McCain-Palin, but for Obama-Biden. NOW has not endorsed a presidential candidate since Mondale-Ferraro in 1984. In addition to the endorsement from N.O.W., the Obama-Biden ticket received endorsements from Business and Professional Women/USA, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Congress of Black Women and the Women’s Information Network.
“It’s extremely disappointing that an organization [NOW} that purports to be an advocate for all women not only opposes but feels compelled to go out of its way to criticize and make negative comments about the only ticket in the presidential race with a woman on the ticket,” Palin’s spokeswoman Maria Comella said in an e-mail.
What this powerful endorsement says is that regardless of the chromosomal makeup of the Republican ticket, they are simply wrong on the issues that matter most to women. McCain’s record is dismal, and so is Palin’s. Their records would be dismal regardless of their gender.
And one thing about women’s issues…they are not just women’s issues. They are people issues. Everyone has a mother, or a sister, or a wife, or coworker, or girlfriend or daughter who will have to live under the supreme court appointments of the next administration. So, have faith. Informed people make better decisions than uninformed people, and the natural law of information is that it gets dispersed. The more people learn, the less they support Palin, and the McCain-Palin ticket. There is still time.