Friday, November 7, 2008

The Republican Party, Sarah Palin and Feminism--An opinionated reflection

In the days since Barack Obama was elected to be the next president of the United States of America, articles about the Republican party have been popping up everywhere. What went wrong? What will they, or can they, do differently next time? Will there even be a next time? There have also been several articles "exposing" the sins of Sarah Palin on the campaign trail. In my opinion, the largest of these sins were evident from the second Palin got the nomination for vice presidential candidate.

I, admittedly, don't know very much about economics or foreign policy or even what the Republican party stands for specifically. For the most part, I only know what I believe, and I think that's as good a way to vote as any. Over the two year run of this historic presidential campaign, I've learned a lot more about the Republican party's beliefs than I have in my nineteen years as the daughter of two very staunch Republicans in the South. More tax cuts, less governmental spending , minimal economic regulation and a seeming desire to give guns to all combined with a strict, no-nonsense approach to foreign policy and anyone not supporting so-called American ideals. 

At first, that didn't sound bad at all. Who wants more taxes? What about the government intruding in the free market? Terrorists? No way! 

Now, I like my "freedom" (such a relative term, that) as much as the next girl, but as the Bush administration wore on for eight long years, the deficit increased and my optimism decreased along with the majority of Americans'. I questioned, like so many people, what these "wars" were really about, and if they were even worth it. It didn't help that I became the picture of a poor college student as soon as I moved to New York City, a place where the National Debt Clock is prominently placed near Times Square. I began to question the Republican party and their motives. I know that many of the problems of the last four years can be attributed to George W. Bush personally, but he definitely wasn't alone. Numerous advisors, lobbyists ,maybe-misguided voters and fellow office-holders down the line contributed to the current predicament of the US economy, international perception and morale. 

Enter the 2008 presidential campaign, began almost three years before the election. The Republican party's final nomination went to John McCain, the 26-year Arizona senator famous for "reaching out" on "both sides of the aisle" and going on The Daily Show several times to kindly make fun of George W. along with much of America's youth. McCain, in turn, nominated Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I still have no idea why Palin was ever nominated, but these are the reasons I've been able to come up with:
-She's a woman.
-She's folksy, and has a "down-home" appeal that reaches out to moms.
-She looks exactly like Tina Fey, making for a couple of months of SNL hilarity and, hey, any publicity is good publicity, right?

I mean, surely her assertion that Alaska's geographical nearness to Russia is an example of foreign policy competence can't actually be a reason. Can it? 
Maybe the thinking was that she could take the female vote, regardless of party affiliation. 

I am sure of two things: Sarah Palin makes women look bad, as in setting feminism back a long way and she is nowhere near equipped to be the vice president of this country. In fact, they should probably bar her from public office (except for PTA president, perhaps) altogether.

 And here are just a few reasons why.

  • When attempting to talk up her foreign policy expertise, she mentioned Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia, saying that Alaskans "keep an eye" on the Russians over the "narrow maritime border." (Video here)
  • She seems a little bit power-hungry, even in the early days of her career as mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska. She gave "loyalty tests" to state employees and the oft-mentioned librarian, firing them and then rehiring within days. Also, several abuse-of-power investigations are ongoing.
  • She went to six different colleges in six years, and still doesn't know that Africa is a continent. 
I'm sure that Palin is somewhat intelligent, she must be clever, at the very least, to get as far as she has in politics. But Sarah Palin has played into the media's insistence on characterizing, and indeed caricaturizing of her as a folksy hockey mom who doesn't know very much and says the wrong thing at the wrong time and is just generally unprepared for this position and the criticism and questioning that comes with it. In doing so, she has taken the woman-for-president movement with her. For those who championed Sarah Palin, saying she was just like everyone else, they (along with the Republican party) have implied in this campaign that being intelligent and well-spoken is elitist and that this elitism is bad and scary. Well, those educated elitists have had their say and they say "Obama!" And some of the Republicans who were for Sarah Palin based on her cuteness and normalcy may be the ones who want their wives to be subservient and think that a woman's only place is in the kitchen and if we must have a woman then at least she should be a mother, for God's sake (believe me, I am related to these people).  If anyone ever wants to make a case for why women don't belong in positions of power, they need only look to Sarah Palin and her many foibles for proof.


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