Beyond the Palin


Posted on September 5th, 2008 by Katherine Franke
 1 comment  
Where to start in metabolizing the “Sarah Palin” disaster? While I found the form of her performance at the RNC devastatingly effective, the content was offensive, full of lies, and both homophobic and racist. While children of politicians are always used, to some degree, as props – the manipulation of the Palin children surpasses any thing I’ve ever witnessed: Track being sent off to Iraq, Bristol’s pregnancy and forced marriage made into national spectacle, and Trigg’s disability serving as fetish for the anti-abortion movement. What to make of the “facts” of her family is not that they are “just like you and me” with all our warts and foibles, but the duplicity underlying her positions on issues like teen pregnancy (for it when it involves her daughter, against it when it means funding programs for unwed mothers), and what her “gender” means in this election (one thing when she is attacked, another when she attacks Hilary Clinton).John Stewart got it just right:

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  1. Two more points, rather randomly chosen:

    * Palin on “choice”: as Donna Brazile pointed out, Palin celebrates the “choice” made by her pregnant daughter to continue the pregnancy to term. But the conditions for that choice are entirely the work of the reproductive rights movement ! Without feminism, there would be no choice at all. This is particularly cynical given the fact that Palin would prohibit abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

    *The leading Democrats need to be very very smart about their response to Palin. Given the enormous distortion of voting power in the US (the Electoral College for the Presidency; the state equivalency in the Senate, etc.), rural voters from low density areas have a disproportionate capacity to shape electoral outcomes. As a highly educated black man in a racial hierarchy, Obama gets quickly categorized as an “uppity” advocate for the unworthy urban minorities. Obama’s on-mike gaffe about the rural voters in tough economic times clinging to guns and religion was unfortunate, since it allowed the Republicans to perpetrate this smear more effectively. As Paul Krugman noted, the post-Nixon Republicans know how to work the resentment card very well. The gendered Palin spin — she’s depicted as the gun toting regular gal with a real guy husband and kids — ratchets up the stakes. My point is that when Harry Reid described her speech as “shrill,” he played right into the Republicans’ hands and advanced their faux-populist and post-feminist backlash agenda. He comes off like an elitist male dumping on a female newcomer, and the Republicans get to pose as more pro-woman than the Democrats as they rush to Palin’s defense. By contrast, dispatching Hillary Clinton to the swing states is exactly the right thing to do.

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