Sunday, September 7, 2008

We might as well get this over with . . .

Well, everyone, what do we think about Sarah Palin? She's clearly charismatic and engaging and intelligent and interesting--exciting to see in any political candidate and especially in a female candidate. She's tough, too--tough enough to handle the snarkiness required by the VP nominee, so that the top of the ticket can keep his hands (mostly) clean. She's mostly an unknown and untested politician and so it will be exciting to watch as she tests herself and finds out what she's capable of. I wish her well.

What interests me even more, though, is the cultural reaction to her candidacy. We have progressive and liberal women expressing deep concern about her children, wondering how she will devote enough time to them, angry that she is exposing them to the public eye while conservative and traditional women cry, "Sexism!" It's enough to give you whiplash!

Speaking of the divide between liberal and conservative, I was sad to see the almost universally-held liberal opinion that Christian conservatives would turn on her and eat her alive once they found out her daughter was pregnant. Now, let's be honest--if she had been a liberal candidate, they would have--but in general, conservative women can be wonderfully compassionate and Christian women can be full of grace, especially toward individuals (as opposed to classes of people.)

And, of course, almost everyone feels compelled to comment on how pretty she is--I've even heard the word "hot"more than once--unless they are ridiculing her hair, her glasses, her outfits, whatever. It reminded me immediately of the conservative pundit who said derisively about Hillary that no one wanted to watch a woman get old in the White House (never mind that he was supporting a 72-year-old man).

It's funny and sad how this has resurrected the "mommy wars," although everyone seems to have switched sides. I heard one Democratic woman say that it was fine for her to want to be VP but that she should have waited until her children were older. How often do you think you get the chance to be VP in one lifetime? If you're a woman, I think, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

The good news, of course (and it is really, really good news) is that Sarah Palin gets to have her chance, just like anyone else. We now have two candidates who can show what they have done and two candidates who will show what they can do. That's exciting to me.

From the beginning of this campaign (which began in the fall of 2004 at the Democratic National Convention as far as I'm concerned), I've been less interested in what the candidates think and more interested in how they think. So for this election, we are choosing between someone who is complex and nuanced (unless you see it as wishy-washy and elitist) and someone who is firm and courageous (unless you see it as stubborn and cavalier.) It has little to do with age or color or gender or even ideology but with something deeper and something rarely examined: how we see the world, how we filter our experiences, how we label what we feel but can't always articulate. That fascinates me at least as much as the campaigns do, which is to say, ALOT.


Electric Monk said...

I think you're correct about what this election SHOULD be about, but unfortunately for many people, it's still only about color. I saw a guy last week on Colbert talking about how much it would change the future perspectives of our children to see a black man as the president for the next eight years. While fundamentally I agree that'd be a good thing, ultimately that means that I'd only be choosing Obama based on race. But so many people want to see a black man be president that they're willing to ignore all those other issues.

Ditto for Palin. I suspect there are many many people who will vote for McCain just so there'll be a female vice president. And having a female vice president is a GOOD THING, but not when the choice is made based on that piece of criteria alone.

T said...

My guess is that as many people will vote against Obama because of his race (whether they admit that to themselves or anyone else) as will vote for him for that reason. Of course, most of us will vote based on a whole complicated mess of assumptions, prejudices, preferences but we will SAY (and believe)we are voting on the issues. I just wish we were more rigorous about examining those assumptions, prejudices and preferences.

Scooter said...

T you did a wonderful job of writing this article/blog. I think you hit it on the head.

Well Said!!!