Updated Sept. 15:
You know the saying–after all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. Nowhere has that been more true than all that has been said about Sarah Palin and what her candidacy means.
Maria Hinojosa , Senior Correspondent for PBS’s newsmagazine NOW has a forthcoming program on everyone’s topic du jour: Women, Politics, and Power, and she’s doing the asking. She’s posed some questions to me for their website. Republican Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman answers the same questions. See it all at the PBS website now.
Here’s the complete version of the questions and what I said in response.
Q: Some people say Sen. John McCain http://www.johnmccain.com/ chose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate believing she was selected only because she is a woman. Do they have a point?
A: It’s THE point. I was sure McCain would pick a woman after Obama picked the good grey Joe Biden as his running mate (male, white, 65, chosen for foreign policy experience). That and other political circumstances worked in Palin’s favor—her youth counteracts McCain’s age (72 ), she has strong appeal to the right-wing anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-gun, anti-science evangelical base McCain desperately needs.
And McCain’s campaign was in such trouble that he had little to lose by taking the risk of choosing Palin. But, yes, it was cynical sexism at its worst.
Q: In her acceptance speech, Gov. Palin said American women “can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.” If she becomes vice president, would that be a step forward for all women?
A: It makes my feminist heart sing that even the Republican right knows women are the key to the 2008 elections. That said, voters will soon realize that Sarah Palin is to women’s rights what Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly
are to civil rights: the antithesis of the struggle for social justice and equality. Palin’s selection would be a giant leap backward, away from the aspirations of the American Dream that brought my grandparents to this great country, away from real hope and true change.
Q: Gov. Palin is against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. How do you think American women will respond to that?
We’d better make it a wake-up call to reject her party’s platform http://www.gop.com/2008Platform/ that gives fertilized eggs more legal rights than women, and calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion even to save the woman’s life.
A: Palin demands privacy and respect for her family’s choices (i.e., her pregnant daughter , her own decision to have a child with Down Syndrome) while she works to strip away the privacy and choices of all other American women. That hypocrisy alone will turn women off. It forces us to ask: does Palin have the character we want in someone a heartbeat from the presidency?
Q: There were charges of sexism in media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Now there are charges of sexism in the coverage of Gov. Palin. Has the media been sexist in their campaign coverage?
A: Ironically, Hillary’s uphill battle against overt media sexism (the Hillary Nutcracker, the KFC Meal with its fat thighs, the way Chris Matthews excoriated her for expressing confidence in her candidacy, comments on her pantsuits, her cackle, her cleavage, her whatever) made Sarah’s path easier. The media are gentler with her by far than they were with Hillary. Also because of Hillary’s candidacy, both the media and the American public are more accustomed to seeing that leadership can come with breasts and a higher pitched voice.
Q: Do you feel the Democratic candidates are treating Gov. Palin differently because she’s a woman?
A: I think the Democrats misjudged who their competition would be and have had to regroup. But Barack Obama comes from a younger generation well accustomed to working as equals with women. It might be a little more problematic for Biden, but overall, the Democrats have strong appeal to women because women know where their best interests lie–about the economy, health care, war and peace, and their own human and civil rights. The issues are the issues, regardless of whether the candidate is male or female.
Q: Is it fair or is it sexist to question Gov. Palin’s technical qualification to be Vice President?
A: Absolutely, fair. And not just fair, but essential. If she is indeed qualified, she should welcome the scrutiny. If not, voters deserve to know. Especially because John McCain is the oldest presidential candidate we’ve had and has had bouts with cancer. News anchor Bob Schieffer just said on the evening news that 20% of vice presidents have become president because of death or resignation of the president. So it is essential to have a vice president who really can step in as president if necessary.
Q: There’s been discussion about whether Gov. Palin can handle the job given that she has five children. Is that an appropriate election issue?
A: No, not unless the same questions are asked of male candidates too. Now, that might make for some interesting media coverage! Maybe Maria will get that scoop.
Q: Why do you believe the United States ranks 69th in the world in the percentage of women holding national office?
A: Actually, we’re an embarrassing 84th. For most of American history there were institutional barriers, first of laws then of social expectations for women to be wives and mothers running the homes while men ran the businesses and politics. But in the last few decades, we’ve made great strides recruiting, training, and supporting women who run for office. Now, the onus is on women to walk through the doors that have been opened for us. Go, run, now is my advice to young women. A bird needs both wings to fly. So does our country.
on Monday, September 15, 2008 at 09:40PM by Gloria Feldt
Here’s the Q and A as published.