Palin Is NOT The Point

I WAS OUT AT Burning Man when Sarah Palin was chosen by John McCain (or his advisors) as the Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate. We don’t get much news out there on the Playa: there are no shops selling newspapers, there’s no TV reception and the only radio stations you can pick up (assuming you have a radio there, which I don’t) are the ones operating from within Black Rock City itself, all of which do their best to preserve the week-long sense of isolation. In fact, by the time the news about Palin filtered through to me, it was that McCain had chosen the female Governor from Maine to be his potential Vice-President, rather than the one from Alaska. So, when I heard the news and knowing nothing as yet about the personality of McCain’s choice, I remarked to one of my fellow campers, who’d already identified himself as a MoveOn member rather than a Democrat, that the choice seemed to be one of almost admirably cynical political opportunism: a way to draw those female Hillary Clinton supporters who, in the wake of Barack Obama’s nomination, had proclaimed themselves ready to jump the political fence and vote for John McCain as some of protest vote against the “sexism” they blamed for their beloved Hillary’s defeat in the Primaries. If these Clinton diehards were true to their threat, that would be up to 18 million votes ready to go the way of a potential female Vice President.

But My MoveOn friend was having none of it. “Those women won’t be voting for McCain,” he assured me. “Not when they stop to think about it.”

This post was not meant to be about Palin – but you do have to take your hat off to this spoof of her Charles Gibson “interview.” It’s good. And there’s more where it came from.

Well, if the choice of Palin had any positive effect on Democrats, it’s that it certainly brought those Hillary supporters back into the Obama camp. Rarely – perhaps, never – have I witnessed anything in American politics that has so united my many female leftist friends as their immediate, visceral, intense dislike – make that fearful hatred – of Sarah Palin, the woman who could become, potentially, America’s first ever female President. What started out as a surprise – like, is this the Republicans’ idea of a bad joke? (to which the answer remains, yes it is… but it’s also for real) – has turned into a collective riot of Palin-bashing missives that comes in the form of fake YouTube videos, speech corrections, animal rights petitions, forwarded newspaper articles, Planned Parenthood donation drives, and bad old urban myths (re: lists of books she supposedly tried to ban from the Wasilla library).

The anti-Palin panic comes in every shape and form. The new issue of the Woodstock Times is filled with letters from longstanding female residents listing all the many solid reasons that she’s a political liability for the nation as a whole. The Sep 22 New Yorker contained a Talk of the Town editorial, an investigative piece by Philip Gourevitch, and a comic take on her manner of speech. When I was in Prospect Park this last weekend, enjoying a short stay in my old neighborhood of Brownstone Brooklyn, my reverie was interrupted by a procession of Cavewomen For Palin, all dressed as per Wilma Flintstone (albeit with delightfully exposed tattoos), carrying banners stating “A woman’s place is in the cave,” while chanting “ugga-ugga-ugga.” (And no, I didn’t have my camera with me; you’ll just have to take my word on this one.) And the last 24 hours has brought FOUR different e-mails asking me to take part in a PBS online poll questioning Palin’s experience (or lack thereof) for the Vice-Presidential post, a poll that has apparently been hijacked by “the right wing” and which must therefore be reclaimed by us anti-Palinites as if her (non-) Presidency depends on it. It’s enough to make one reset their spam filter to ban anything with the word “Palin” in the headline – and for that matter, maybe the contents too.

This is what it’s meant to be about. I missed Barack Obama’s acceptance speech due to being in the middle of the desert. Apparently, Nevada has gone from being a Republican certainty to a battleground state. Let’s get the fight back to where it belongs.

Not, for a second, because I don’t share the same views as my female friends. Sarah Palin is anathema to any and every standard I hold personally important in a political candidate. It took but a few seconds of watching her speech at the Republican National Convention to confirm that one. (The seconds in question were the ones in which she derided Obama for being a “Community Organizer.” I like to speak highly of people when I can, but Sarah, fuck you! And if she took tips in delivering that cynical dismissal of Obama’s community service from multi-millionaire corporate businessman authoritarian Rudy Giuliani, well, fuck him too: all the people who wished he could have been their home city’s mayor for the way he handled 9/11 have always been welcome to him.) If I were a female Democrat, and suddenly presented with Palin as the Republicans’ personification of womens liberation – a heartbeat away from the Presidency – I’m sure I would be freaking out even more. And so I’m very grateful to the many friends who have forwarded me details about her political past and present, especially her call for increased aerial hunting of wolves. I’m equally grateful that there are still some journalists out there who take their job title seriously, and who have investigated her background, her religion, her decision-making process, her family values, her views on sexual education, on the environment, on global warming, on oil revenues – oh, and of course, her manner of tackling political and personal vendettas. And, I’m glad, I suppose, that her nomination may yet raise funds for Planned Parenthood, which has my support whether we’re in the midst of a Presidential campaign or not.

But people: enough is enough! The behind-the-scenes Republican powers encouraged McCain to nominate Sarah Palin for precisely this reason: because they knew she would be an immediate media sensation, drawing national coverage – and therefore the national conversation – away from Barack Obama’s positive campaign and back into the kind of firebrand stereotyping match which the Republicans are so adept at winning. These are the people, remember, who took John Kerry – a lousy Presidential candidate, perhaps, but a proven Vietnam war hero – and so besmirched his record with their SwiftBoat lies that average voters were persuaded that Kerry was a coward. Hell, they’ve already managed to convince 13% of registered voters that Obama is a Muslim.

The Democrats like to believe they’re above such political mudslinging and I’d like to believe it too – but in that case, let’s take back this election. It’s not about Sarah Palin. It’s about Barack Obama. Look, for the first time since I moved to this country, I thoroughly believe in the Democratic Presidential Candidate. I can not wait to cast my vote for him. Though Obama has showed signs of tiring towards the end of this incredibly (and unnecessarily) long campaign, and though he has played just a little too nice of late, my support for him remains solid. When he speaks on an issue, he’s usually already informed; this gives him the capacity to think on his feet. He demonstrates great intelligence but also deep compassion; he is an agent for much-needed change even as it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s actually quite cautious. (And caution is not a bad thing, when you think about the speed at which our current President rushed this country to war.) The post-Palin bump in McCain’s polling numbers have had a lot of Democrats worried, but I admire Obama for not panicking; he’s trusting, I believe, that he can ride out the Palin surge by taking the moral high ground – and I just pray that tactic will work in such a cynical country.

Despite intense scientific, ethical and public opposition to aerial hunting, Governor Sarah Palin continues to champion this awful practice. Visit Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund for more info.

So, my friends, let’s take a pause from sharing our disgust with Palin amongst our fellow non-Republicans, and resume the much harder part of the political campaign: getting the vote out for Barack Obama. Perhaps we need to be sending out e-mails listing the ten attributes that make Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, a better Vice-President than Palin – because, as yet, no-one has listed them for me, and in a nation that’s become enslaved to the 24-hour cable news cycle, “MILF” is certainly not one of them. Maybe those of us who live in areas that are divided between semi-urbanite progressives and rural conservatives need to engage in friendly conversations in the local diners and supermarkets, assuring our suspicious neighbors that having a well-traveled, intelligent, caring, (half)black family man (with a Harvard degree, and experience in the Senate, and yes, experience in the Community too) as President might actually be a good thing for this country. It would ssurely be more beneficial than another round of Palin-bashing e-mails and petitions sent to our close friends whom we already know wouldn’t vote for her if she were the last woman on earth. We have very little time left, and we need to reclaim the message. It’s not about her. It’s not about PBS online push-button polls. (Anyway, the “hijacking” of said poll might teach PBS a lesson and encourage it to concentrate on what it does best – responsible journalism.) It’s not even about Planned Parenthood. It’s about President Obama. Don’t you like the sound of that?

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8 Comment(s)

  1. Tom Ferrie

    24 September, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Absolutely well written. Sadly we missed you while you were in the hood. I’ll be in touch in a couple of weeks to get together..

  2. Auctioneer

    25 September, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Firstly, sorry it’s been ages since I posted. A busy summer on all fronts. Spot on Tony. This election will probably be won or lost on who mobilizes their voting troops best. As someone who had been on the fence most of the summer the choice of Sarah Palin as as John McCain’s running mate tipped me decisively to the Obama/Biden ticket. I think that everyone should be very clear about the prospect of someone like Palin being only a heartbeat away from the most important and powerful political post in this planet. To say nothing of her complete lack of comprehension of and interest in foreign affairs, what does it say about this country that there will be a large body of people who come out and vote for the Republican ticket purely because she is against every abortion (even where there has been rape or incest), who would deny funding to stem cell research, who is totally against equal rights for gays and lesbians and who would support the teaching of “creationism” in schools? If McCain wins it won’t be based on his perceived strengths or proposed actions but because enough people who might have stayed at home on November 4 will now go to the polls and encourage their friends to do the same because in Sarah Palin they recognize someone who reflects their fundamentalist religious views which trump all other concerns whether they be economic, environmental or related to their kids’ educations. To think that that the future of this country might rest with this group of people terrifies me. It was this group of voters who helped to elect Bush in 2000 and 2004 especially in key states like Ohio. The only way that they will be thwarted and we remove the possibility of another Bush-like lightweight being so close to the Presidency is not only in talking to our neighbours but also in donating money to the Democratic campaign. In Washington state my vote and my neighbours will count for little if the Obama and Biden ticket doesn’t have the money and resources to get the vote out in the likes of Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, Nevada, Montana and Colorado. Imagine the scenario where the Democrats win the popular vote through massive votes for Obama/Biden on the coasts but lose the election because McCain and Palin win enough swing states through getting more of their voters to the polls. In my humble opinion, this election isn’t about electing the first biracial President but is about resisting the tide in this country where we elect politicians based not on their qualifications but on how many so called “values” they share with groups of people who put their personal religious values above all else.

  3. 29 September, 2008 at 10:13 am


    Good to hear from you again. A lot to digest there, but I’m with you for the most part. You would hope that the selection of Sarah Palin would drive moderate Republicans away from McCain… and maybe it still will. I have to remain optimistic: her initial sheen seems to be wearing away and maybe after this Thursday’s debate between her and Biden people will understand the need to have a VP who actually knows something about the world.

    I’m not sure if I’m meant to read that you were leaning towards McCain at one point? We must all recognize he would have made a better President had he won the Republican candidacy in 2000, but his time has been and gone. We don’t need a President who would be 76 years old at the end of his first term. Isn’t there something called a retirement age? There do seem to be grass roots efforts afoot to get the word out in the Swing States/Battleground States. Have you seen



  4. Auctioneer

    29 September, 2008 at 6:25 pm


    Thanks for the link which was really good and not just because I fancy Sarah Silverman a wee bit. Let’s say that between May and September I was starting to go off Barack Obama. Above all, I am heartily sick of the anti-intellectual, fundamentalist block of voters for whom Sarah Palin’s nomination was a complete sop. Watch this space. I am convinced that urgent family matters will prevent her from debating on Thursday night or that McCain will use the financial crisis as an excuse to replace her with Romney.

  5. 6 May, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Sarah Palin is a very vocal person and most of the time she speaks what she thinks and how she feels. “

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