Daily Archives: September 16, 2008

I am a liberal, but I’m blown away by Sarah Palin’

As American women are drawn to the Republican vice-presidential candidate, US writer Rebecca Johnson explains her appeal

When my cell phone rang on vacation, I eyed the phone number wearily. It was my employer, Vogue, calling. My four-year-old, just out of the ocean and covered in sand, was whining for a shower. My three-year-old was thirsty. My hedge-fund husband was upstairs on his BlackBerry making plans to buy Dubai. I picked up the phone.

It was the publicist from the magazine calling to say that CNN wanted to interview me about Sarah Palin. My initial response was cool. “What do they want to talk about?”

“You’re one of the few people who has interviewed her for a national publication,” the publicist answered, referring to an article I had written earlier this year profiling the governor of Alaska for the magazine.

“Is she dead?” I asked worriedly. Alaska is notorious for small plane crashes – that’s how the politician father of the writer and journalist Cokie Roberts died – and I knew Palin owned a float plane.

It never really occurred to me that she might be the vice-presidential candidate.  With so little time in office, even Alaskans hadn’t yet made up their mind about Sarah Palin’s job as governor of the state.

After the publicist set me straight, I ran down to the beach to find my mother. A left-leaning Quaker who is president of the League of Women Voters in her Texas town, my mother is the least likely person to celebrate the election of a Republican to national office.

But as a young woman she had lived in Alaska, teaching English to natives and living on a houseboat. It was the place she had gone to escape her Southern Baptist country club-attending, bridge-playing parents and it loomed large in our family as a mythic paradise, a place where you could escape the chains of civilisation and reinvent yourself.

As soon as my mother retired from her job as a professor at a community college, we drove the Alaska-Canada highway together, revisiting the site of her early bliss. During that month-long trip, I glimpsed what she saw in the state.

A whole day could go by without us seeing another soul: a solitude that complete could scrub the worst personality clean. The people we met were prickly, opinionated and original. Gore Vidal once famously said that California was so full of oddballs it was as if somebody had picked up the country and shook it so that all the loose pieces landed in the west. These days, the pieces are landing in the north.

With so few people around, conventional wisdom seems irrelevant and laws have a way of seeming arbitrary. When we were ready to sleep, we’d pull off the road and pitch a tent. But the harsh calculus of wilderness also reveals what is essential.

You don’t plan well, you don’t make it through the winter. The wood pile outside Sarah Palin’s parents’ house is half a city block long for a reason. Forget New York City. If you can make it in Alaska, you can make it anywhere. When Sarah Palin says she doesn’t care what we east coast liberals think about her, she means it.

“Sarah Palin is the vice-presidential candidate,” I told my mother when I found her under a beach umbrella.

We hugged each other joyfully. Politics be damned, Palin was a woman and she was an Alaskan! Moreover, I had been impressed with her when I interviewed her – not for her politics (I’m one of those east coast liberals she doesn’t care about) but for the other things that people across the country are responding to right now:her warmth, her work ethic, her “can-do” attitude.

  • If life is simply a reprise of high school, Palin was the jock who attended church faithfully, ran the soup kitchen, and organised the bake sale. If her paper on the Lincoln-Douglas debate wasn’t the most nuanced, so be it. Something has to give.

    In my article, I wrote about how hard it is for Palin not to smile. The American media has been dismissive of that beauty-queen smile but Palin really did enter the Miss Wasilla contest for the scholarship money. (To make extra money, her retired parents currently shoo the birds off the runway at the Anchorage airport so the birds’ bodies don’t muck up the engines’ turbine.) Even then, Palin didn’t like the pageant and was appalled when they asked her to turn around and show the judges her behind.

    Once upon a time, I also would have been contemptuous of Palin’s incurable optimism but, having been knocked around by life a bit, I now understand what a gift chronically happy people are given.

    Life hands them difficulties -a Down’s syndrome baby, a 17-year-old daughter pregnant before her life as an adult has even begun, a much-needed job on the oil and gas commission that comes with too many strings – and she is not flummoxed or depressed or angry or self-pitying. She endures.

    My liberal friends were outraged when rumours about Barack Obama attending a Madrassa or being a Muslim surfaced on the internet, but all week they have been gleefully trading emails of Sarah Palin distortions.

    There was the doctored picture of her carrying a rifle, wearing a stars-and-stripes bikini while a man in the background drank Schlitz beer. Or dopey quotes about God, creationism and moose, all of which have been subsequently debunked.

    There have also been snide remarks about Wal-Mart and K-Mart, as if there is something shameful about trying to save money. The week before Palin’s nomination was announced, people were talking about John McCain’s inability to remember precisely how many houses he and his gazillionaire wife own. A few weeks before that, the news was Cindy McCain’s $250,000 American Express bill (those lime-green shifts aren’t free).

    Todd Palin earns an hourly wage at his job on the North Slope oil field; Sarah Palin makes $125,000 a year as governor of Alaska. They’re not poor, but Alaska, where most things have to be flown or shipped in, is an expensive state and they have five mouths to feed.

    Palin isn’t shooting moose for sport; her family eats what she kills. If she shops at Wal-Mart for diapers, the vast majority of American women can relate.

    It’s no wonder the latest Washington Post poll shows an unprecedented shift of 20 points among white women towards McCain since he announced Palin as his running mate. Times are hard and getting harder.

    In a perfect world, people would vote based on issues. Care about a woman’s right to choose her own biological destiny? (so killing a different humanbeing is choice?) Vote pro-choice (vote to kill babies just because it’s in a womens womb? ). Unfortunately, life is still a lot like high school. We vote for people we like, people who make us feel comfortable and heard.

    Having watched folksy George W trounce the patrician Al Gore and John Kerry, you’d think the Democrats would have learned this.

    Deriding Palin’s modest background and lack of Ivy League credentials will only turn voters off. We should celebrate what is groundbreaking about Sarah Palin: a card-carrying member of Feminists for Life is a big step forward from Housewives for Life. And then we should talk about the issues.

  • Rebecca Johnson, Telegraph, UK,11/09/2008

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    Sarah Palin and the Sham of Feminism

    In the eyes of the “women’s movement,” the right woman is never a woman of the right.

    John McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate has energized the right. Conservatives view her as one of their own and are enthralled by her life story. She is a Washington outsider who, unlike the Democratic presidential nominee, impresses as being sincere, fresh, and new. Moreover, in juxtaposition with both Barack Obama and Joe Biden, her deeds suggest that she is an actual reformer rather than a person whose change message is wholly rhetorical. Her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention was a testament to her savvy and appeal. Palin’s inspired talk yielded two of the best lines ever spoken about Barack Obama: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities,” and “The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’”

    The Republican ticket offers the electorate two politicians who possess the courage to act on their convictions, which is something that could never (honestly) be said about the flagships of the left that oppose them; although, to what extent Palin will assist McCain in attracting female voters is a question in open dispute. Hillary Clinton made history this year — garnering 18 million votes and nearly pulling off the comeback of this new century — so one would presuppose that the emergence of “Sarah Barracuda” offered a bit of redemption for those feminists embittered by the results of the Democratic primaries.

    Yet such an assumption would be incorrect. A working knowledge of feminism and the fashion by which the original meaning of the word has been irreversibly traduced by radicalism told observers all they needed to know about the stance acolytes would take in regard to Palin. Those of us for whom feminists are deplorably familiar have known for years that the primary reason for their success is their keeping up the pretense that they are “women’s groups” who advance “women’s rights.” However, both of these contentions are wrong. Big Feminism promotes statism, political correctness, misandry, contempt for our country, anti-Caucasian racism, and a host of other evils.

    Unsurprisingly, the response of feminist activists and their peers in the mainstream media to the news of Sarah Palin’s nomination was immediate. Their disdain was palpable and their maliciousness readily evident. Peter Hitchens’ prediction proved prescient: “Watch as the ultra-feminist sisterhood back away in horror from Sarah Palin, John McCain’s new running mate. Mrs. Palin is technically female, but she’s enthusiastically married, hates abortion, and thinks criminals should not be the only people allowed to own guns. She’s everything Hillary Clinton isn’t. In short, she’s the wrong kind of woman.”

    Indeed, that she is.

    Leftist radicals only support those women who mimic their exact manners and beliefs. They no more respect diversity than they do urinals. The president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) derided McCain’s choice shortly after it was made. Specifically, she said, “Gov. Palin may be the second woman vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket, but she is not the right woman.” In a follow-up column, Gandy added: “Because we should defeat anti-women’s rights candidates like Sarah Palin based on their merits and their positions, not their gender.”

    Perennial agitator and icon Gloria Steinem proclaimed via an op-ed: “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton.” Gail Collins weighed in, “I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Hillary Clinton.” Obviously she is right. Palin is her own person as opposed to being an appendage of a political party. She possesses a textured personality that greatly surpasses Hillary’s androgenized comet of unwavering ambition.

    Oprah Winfrey followed suit and declared that she will not interview the Republican vice-presidential nominee before November 4. She refuses to use her “show as a platform for any of the candidates” even though Oprah has made it such a mechanism in the past. She had Barack Obama on as a guest and has already given him her endorsement. Her excuse is highly transparent because, at the moment, Palin would be a ratings boast for any television host. That Oprah wants nothing to do with her is a result of her own political bias.

    She might also fear the impact Palin could have on her audience. Her drones may empathize with a lady who is decidedly not a victim, and who knows where such emoting could eventually lead? Before long her flock may suspect that there is more to the world than their own persons, which could effectuate an examination of the nation’s economy and the value of the free market. Eventually, her wards might meander upon the works of Thomas Sowell, which would be an unmitigated disaster. Newly reconstituted viewers would watusi off the Democratic plantation, and, far worse, stop ordering from her book club. In lieu of this impending debacle, one can understand why Oprah couldn’t take any chances. Like so many other feminists, the celebrity had to denounce Palin because she cares far more about her ego and her politics than she does the lives of her sisters.

    Andrew Sullivan declared that the Palin decision was not about feminism, but “a cynical ploy to exploit Democratic divisions over gender.” Personally, I hope he’s right. After all, recent polls attest to the effectiveness of McCain’s pragmatic decision. He has erased Obama’s convention bounce and the Alaskan governor, with her 58 percent favorability rating, is more popular than any of the other principal players in this election. According to Rasmussen Reports, “she earns positive reviews from 65% of men and 52% of women.”

    If over half of American women approve of her then how can feminists continue with the ruse that their incoherent discourse reflects the interests of 51 percent of the population? They do so because it is their nature. If they dropped the pretense of feminism and “women” being one, they would find themselves devoid of funding and legislative support. Most citizens are too busy making money and improving their lives to notice the fallacies endemic to Big Feminism. For those fortunate enough to be ignorant of their ways, that parasitical movement and its “there ought to be a law” mentality have markedly decreased our constitutional freedoms over the past four decades.

    That is why to Kim Gandy Governor Palin can never be the “right woman,” as she is a woman of the right. NOW’s stance, just like those of their socialist conspecifics, exposes the lie that is radical feminism, as feminism is not about women — it’s about leftism. Feminists accrued influence by pretending to be “women’s groups,” but their positions never were indicative of the preferences of your average woman. Their advocates are leftists first, and women somewhere down the road.

    The contention that “feminists” equal “women” was a non-sequitur from the beginning. Broken down into parts, its fallacious quality becomes apparent. The line of reasoning — most feminists are women; therefore, all women are feminists — is both circular and risible. Your run-of-the-mill sixth grader could explain the counter-intuitiveness of the proposition — which places such a student upon a higher cognitive plane than Joe Biden. Over the course of his career, Obama’s number two has swallowed their lies hook, ring ding, burnt bra, and sinker. No, Big Feminism does not advance the needs of women. It exists for the purpose of lobbying politicians to enact legislation that enhances the size of the state while penalizing men for being born. Feminists are more addicted to power than Hugo Chavez.

    Radical organizations like NOW and the Feminist Majority no more embody “women” than communist associations represent the collective views of men. In both cases, proponents of a particular group are predominantly members of one sex, but this reality fails to justify the extrapolation of their opinions to reflect the outlooks of men and women on the whole. Furthermore, only about 25 percent of the country’s women accept the word “feminist” as a self-descriptor, which is very good news. Perhaps resentment by chromosome is not as easy a concept to sell as it used to be.

    Gandy’s condemnation — “But will Palin speak for women? Based on her record and her stated positions, the answer is clearly No” — turns on itself because feminists have never spoken for women on aggregate. Their endless emission of politically correct verbalizations helps no one and, unlike the zealots who man their ranks, Sarah Palin has never pretended to be the voice for all women. The next vice president is unique and not a slave to pernicious dogma. What better illustrates her independence than membership in Feminists for Life of America? Yes, radical feminism is a liberty-eating virus within our culture, but, thanks to the audacity of John McCain, we may now possess a cure for it.

    Bernard Chapin wrote Women: Theory and Practice and Escape from Gangsta Island, along with a series of videos called Chapin’s Inferno.

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