The emergence of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential Republican candidate is one of the biggest acts of betrayal against women in American history. In a transparent and cynical ploy to appeal to women's votes, John McCain has picked an anti-women's rights woman candidate. The worst part is that both his gutter tactics and playing "identity" politics of the obvious kind seems to be working. White women as a group have shifted from Obama to McCain. It is about time that the press, leading women in the country and Obama's supporters reveal the true record of the McCain-Palin ticket on women's issues.
McCain's selection of a political light weight like Palin is not only politically opportunistic but reveals his extremely poor judgment in the first important decision taken by him as the Republican nominee for President. Clearly, he is the one who puts politics and winning the Presidency before his country, a lie that he projected on to his far more worthy opponent. Ms. Palin's gender and her ability to mouth one-liners do not excuse the personal and political scandals that have already marred her selection or her complete ignorance of most international and domestic issues. It is a slap on the face of most American women to have one of their worst rather than one of their best represent them at the highest levels of government.
The place to begin in judging the McCain-Palin ticket is John McCain's views on women before his shameful and hypocritical reincarnation as the candidate for American women. All we know about McCain on women's issues is that he has opposed equal pay for equal work and the right to choose. He tells horrible "jokes" about rape, abandoned his first wife when she was physically incapacitated and publicly called Cindy McCain a word that rhymes with "punt." A man who disrespects his wives, first and second, cannot respect any woman. In an open and brazen attempt to appeal to women, one now finds McCain on "The View" and Rachel Ray's cooking show. His philandering days as a navy pilot and his improper relations with a female lobbyist lie forgotten. Whatever heroics McCain may have performed in Vietnam, he is no knight in shining armor. When it comes to women, he is downright dishonorable, personally and politically.
Perhaps it is only natural that McCain would pick a woman like Sarah Palin, who has opposed every single woman's issue, as his Vice Presidential nominee. Palin is anti-choice but demands the right to privacy and choice for her family. The pregnancy of her underage daughter is a legitimate issue when she is against sex education in public schools and when the McCain-Palin ticket falsely accuses Senator Obama of promoting sex education for kindergartners! As Mayor, she forced victims of rape to pay for their state medical examination and is against abortion even in the case of rape or incest. She not only fails the test of feminism but of common human decency.
Palin is probably the worst breed of conservative women since southern white slaveholding women defended slavery as a positive good and opposed the women's rights movement as heretical for allegedly overturning both God's and nature's plans for women. Her religious fundamentalism, often mistaken for spirituality, makes her the perfect historical heir to these women rather than Abraham Lincoln, whose legacy she had the temerity to evoke. Lincoln was a religious skeptic who came to believe that the Civil War was divine judgment on the nation for its sin of slavery. Does Palin believe that? As a proponent of Biblical literalism, she should probably defend slavery as an institution sanctioned by God. In fact, what better way to honor Lincoln's legacy on racial emancipation and black rights than inaugurate a gifted African American man as President on the bicentennial of his birth and repudiate the man who refused to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and the long struggle for equal rights in this country.
On nearly every issue, Palin's positions reveal both her inability and unwillingness to grasp basic facts and her unseemly pride in proclaiming her ignorance. She wants to ban books that don't follow her religious beliefs from town libraries, despite a USA Today report to the contrary, and wants "creationism" taught in our schools. The fact that she would want to ban any book is reminiscent of Nazi censorship and burning of books. She dismisses global warming as a myth not created by human activity and is unable to accept the theory of evolution. Her anti-intellectual and anti-scientific mentality reflects her college experience in no less than six different schools in the space of five years. She is actually a nice complement to McCain, who graduated near the bottom of the naval academy, and Bush, whose poor record as a student is well known. The ability to see Russia from Alaska is touted as her foreign policy expertise rather than her complete lack of knowledge about the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war. It is not the liberal intelligentsia that Republicans rail against but intelligence itself. Mockery and distortion (forgetting the Biblical injunctions against lying and "do unto others..."), is all that the gun toting and trigger happy McCain-Palin ticket have to offer against their infinitely more talented and intelligent opponent.
In the most brazen instance of political plagiarism, McCain and Palin have been happily lifting Obama's words, ideas and slogans. Pretending to be a reformer, Palin is guilty of firing a state official for refusing to fire her former brother in law, revealing the worst kind of corruption and cronyism. Accepting per diem payments from the state treasury while she was at home, spinning lies about her opposition to the "bridge to nowhere," selling the Governor's jet on ebay and firing the Governor's cook will not make her a reformer. Moderates and independents should be aware that Palin is a right wing, fundamentalist Republican and her selection proves that the McCain-Palin ticket is neither independent nor maverick. Most American women ought to be smarter than this blatant attempt to make them vote for an anti-woman candidate simply because she is a woman.
The Republicans will distract us to death with manufactured small issues like lipstick because they want to divert attention from their dismal eight year record of failure on every front. It is the height of irony to have the most sexist ticket in recent presidential history cry sexism. If American women want to continue the Republican record of economic disaster and international disrepute, they should vote McCain-Palin. They are wrong on Iraq, wrong on the economy, wrong on the environment and wrong on women's issues. If women want to vote for a ticket that will undo every gain made on women's rights in the past few decades they should vote McCain-Palin.
It is also time for leading American women, progressive women, Democratic women and their supporters to speak out more forcefully against the McCain-Palin charade. (Sign the Women against Palin petition started recently.) As one who has been a long time admirer of the Clintons but a supporter of Obama this election cycle, I was disappointed that recently in Florida Hillary missed a golden opportunity to rally white women behind Obama by not taking on Palin explicitly. Her surrogates like the historian Sean Wilentz in a Time magazine article have been worse, repeating the canards and manufactured talking points of the McCain campaign. Hillary and her supporters need to do much more to address the stalking horse of Palin's candidacy. In fact all those feminists who strongly supported Hillary should now call Palin out. Otherwise, many women will vote for Palin believing they are advancing the cause of women in politics when precisely the opposite is true. American women have been betrayed and their leaders ought to take note.