This is the first political post on this blog this year, and it’s pretty long. If you aren’t interested in reading more, feel free to skip. Please remember to keep comments polite.

A woman on the ballot for VP??? My first thought was that it sounded too good to be true! I remember as a kid when we named our cat for Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984. I wasn’t expecting a female VP this election cycle, so I was really surprised when a friend told me about John McCain naming Sarah Palin as his VP choice. The choice made sense, though, choosing a woman could pander to the upset Hillary Clinton supporters, and possibly swing female voters to McCain.

When I first started reading about Sarah Palin, I was impressed: she’s an active and involved mom of 5, she calls herself a hockey mom (I think that’s the Alaskan version of a soccer mom), she enjoys outdoor winter sports such as ice fishing and snowmobiling, she’s well-loved in the community (85% approval rating!), she’s been an active partner in her husband’s fishing business, and she became involved in government – city council, mayor, and then governor partly to clear out the corruption and excessive spending in the Alaskan government. She’s type of woman that mothers of daughters want to point at – you can do whatever you set your mind to do! Sarah Palin sounds like someone I’d like to have coffee or lunch with – definitely a strong, unique, and fascinating woman. (Even if her office has a the skin of a grizzly bear her father shot on the sofa)

After I got over my initial “oh wow! a woman!” excitement, I looked at her stand on issues that are key for me. Any remote possibility of me supporting her politically disappeared completely at that point. I am hoping more people look beyond her gender, hotness, and affability, and look at the issues. I also hope that the Reuters article about Sarah Palin is correct, and she will galvanize the liberals against the McCain/Palin ticket as much as she will galvanize the Evangelicals for her. I really don’t want 4 more years of leadership that is backed by the religious right!

Several friends and I have chatted about Sarah Palin’s hotness, and that she’s even a VPilf (newly coined word alert!). Her hotness is so well-established at this point, even her father talks about it:

Since his daughter took office last December, Heath has received several T-shirts proclaiming his daughter the best-looking political figure around. “One says, ‘My governor is hotter than your governor,’ and the other one says ‘Alaska: the coldest state with the hottest governor,’ ” Heath said, laughing.

I definitely think that the more people who think someone with glasses and long brown hair = hot, the better! Her hotness credentials include being runner up to Miss Alaska, winning “Miss Congeniality”, and being named “Hottest Governor” by Vogue Magazine. This is fun and all, but it doesn’t help us learn anything about her political beliefs, and we probably shouldn’t vote for someone based on hotness alone (and for a true hotness ticket, I would vote Obama/Palin…).

When I took a closer look at what Sarah Palin stands for, I found that she is so vehemently anti-choice, she doesn’t support exceptions in cases of rape and incest, though she does make exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman. In fact, Palin has gone on to say that even if one of her daughters became pregnant after a rape she would “choose life”. The “Pro-Life” movement is making a big deal about her choice to continue her 5th pregnancy, a baby born with Downs Syndrome, but every Pro-Choice woman I know would also have continued the pregnancy. Downs is well-researched and well-known, a diagnosis that has established Early Intervention protocols, a wealth of information, and many parent support groups. Downs is also a diagnosis that can mean very delayed or only mildly delayed, and there are so many resources available for medical and developmental issues. In addition to her stance on abortion, unlike McCain, Palin is against stem-cell research, which could help other children with special needs.

Palin has some wonderful qualities, she’s a Viking, someone willing to look silly, and she may look like a Battlestar Gallactica character. Palin isn’t a girly-girl, preferring sports to shopping, and causes to clothes. She also looked great competing for Miss Alaska and was a leader of her high school basketball team, but like her hotness, these aren’t necessarily what we are looking for in a VP candidate.

The former mayor of a small town, and a person who says she has “small town values”, Sarah Palin’s small town values seem completely different from my own small town values. Palin has taken a pro book-banning stand, tried to have her ex-brother-in-law fired following his divorce from her sister, dismissed the Public Safety Commissioner because he wouldn’t fire her ex-brother-in-law, and she has pushed to have creationism or intelligent design taught in the public schools.

A lifetime member of the NRA, Palin grew up hunting with her father and still hunts regularly, and frequently eats moose burgers and moose stew. While I’m glad that she eats the meat after hunting, her position on gun control, hunting, and animal welfare disturbs me.

A longtime member of the National Rifle Association, she told USA Today when she was running for governor as a Republican in 2006 that “We hunt as much as we can, and I’m proud to say our freezer is full of wild game we harvested here in Alaska.” (cite)

She has been further quoted in a press release saying, “I am proud to join the State of Texas in support of the Second Amendment,” Governor Palin said. “We need to send a strong message that law-abiding citizens have a right to own firearms, for personal protection, for hunting and for any other lawful purpose.” Having lived in Texas, where you are legally allowed to carry a gun into buildings unless they state “no guns allowed”, I’m leery of anyone wanting to follow Texas’s lead on gun control.

Palin is, like Obama, a charismatic speaker, and so I chose to look for print media sources about her politics so I wouldn’t be swayed by her appearance or charisma. While researching her energy and environment stances, and found that not only does she support drilling in the National Wildlife Refuge, she is suing to take polar bears off the endangered species list despite their many risks as sea ice melts, Palin backs the shooting of wolves from helicopters, and “opposes strengthening protections for beluga whales” due to oil and natural gas opportunities in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. As a result of her history of environmental decision, several environmentalists have named her the “killa from Wasilla”. Additionally, unlike McCain and much of the rest of the world, she doesn’t believe that Global Warming is the result of human activity, responding to an in interview: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made..

I have some cognitive dissonance related to Sarah Palin and her political views. Palin’s says“The legislature should do all it can to protect human life” when discussing abortion, and yet she is a staunch supporter of the death penalty. Her abstinence-only education stance also looks a bit ironic now that her teenage daughter is pregnant…

She has opposed funding what she calls “explicit” sex-education programs in Alaska and supports abstinence-only programs, which urge teens to refrain from sex until marriage. (cite)

Another conundrum is that even though she has participated in several beauty pageants, she says she is a member of Feminists For Life; I don’t know anyone who labels herself a feminist who likes beauty pageants.

I keep being surprised by what Sarah Palin has said and done while in office, as I disagree with almost everything she stands for, but I really want to like her. While Palin vetoed a bill that would’ve kept health care benefits from the same-sex partners of state employees, she didn’t win over any GLBT activists, as she only did so because the Alaska Supreme Court had ruled the bill as unconstitutional. Additionally Palin backs all bills to define marriage as being between a man and a women, is against spousal benefits for gay couples, and her church is part of the “pray away the gay” movement. My mind is boggled – this is so incredibly different from the GLBT Welcoming Congregations of my own UU religious affiliation.

I’m interested in seeing what other information we learn about Sarah Palin, as I am writing this only 9 days after her nomination was announced. I’m looking forward to learning more about her and watching her speak more often, as she is fascinating to watch. I still hope that she won’t be working in the White house next year, though!

(I welcome comments on this entry, but please keep your comments polite or they will be deleted)


yur mum on 7 September, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

I think this is one of the most thoroughly researched, well-written and well-balanced pieces on Gov. Palin, and I have read dozens at this point. I also find her a conundrum, admiring many of the things she has done and stands for, while completely disagreeing with her political positions. I also worry about the dissonance between the “facts” her party has disseminated about her and the reality behind those facts. Her active solicitation of “earmarks” for her own city clashes directly with her claim that she opposes them. I recommend reading today’s “Public Editor” in today’s NYTimes, in which the paper’s ombudsman addresses the many (and not very polite) criticisms of the paper’s articles about Palin.
To expand on one of the issues you raise, I agree with everyone who says that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy should have been a “private matter.” However, it’s a private matter in a very public family that is adamantly anti-sex ed and pro abstinence, and a public family that decided to become known nation-wide despite being aware that accepting a national political nomination would expose their daughter to the national media at a time that must be very difficult, and perhaps painful.
Finally, as a certified sexuality educator who has taught dozens of young people in an abstinence-based but reality and information-packed church-sponsored course, I know the success of teaching young people the facts, not avoiding the issues of sexuality. Not one of our young students has become pregnant out of wedlock. That statistic holds true throughout the country — it is proven that abstinence-only fails, and that sex ed offers the best pregnancy prevention for teens, and, thus, the best way to prevent abortions.
Great work, Rachel!

Puck on 7 September, 2008 at 6:19 pm #

Great job on the article. I agree with everything you said here except one minor-ish detail. You yourself said you’d probably call me a feminist, but I was third runner-up in Miss Michigan Coed a few years ago. I think pageants can be wonderful for the girls involved because they get to meet other like-minded young women who will probably take the world by storm. The women in pageants are tested on their presence in a room and more importantly their ability to speak to a group.

Notice I don’t call them beauty pageants though. While I have participated in a few pageants I think the physical fitness component has gone astray. I think, if nothing else, that part shouldn’t be televised. But I digress. The point is pageantry isn’t all about bimbos who look good in prom dresses, despite what the feminist movement would have you think. I know, I’ve been there. ^_~

claire on 7 September, 2008 at 9:22 pm #

Excellent commentary, Rachel!!

Robbie on 12 September, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

great article- you’ve summed things up nicely. I agree that we’re likely to learn a lot more about her as this election continues. In the meantime, though, the idea of her as president is SCARY.

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