Monday, October 6, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Where Have Our Standards Gone?
Sarah Palin survived the debate, but her down-home message can do little to reassure voters who have every reason to demand a change of direction.
What does it say about a nation, when the true take away message from a vice-presidential debate is that one of its participants actually does have the ability to string together a series of coherent sentences? Talk about the poverty of low-expectations. Sure, Sarah Palin made it through last night without adding to her long list of cringe inducing moments. But for a nation facing its greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, two sustained wars, and the lingering concern of the whereabouts and activities of Osama Bin Laden, being folksy just isn’t good enough. Competence matters. And clearly, Palin falls short.
Over and over, Governor Palin evaded questions, returned to the well-worn “Maverick” crutch, and sang the same ole’ Republican tune about the evils of government. But it’s hard to sell the tired anti-government spiel when your running mate pseudo-suspends his campaign to make sure that very government comes to the rescue of interconnected economies here and abroad.
It is true though, that Palin had her moments. She was most effective when she directed barbs against her opponents. But despite the provocation, Senator Joe Biden refused to rise to the bait and avoided any patronizing comments, focusing steadily on why Barack Obama should be president and not John McCain.
Still, what sort of a Maverick would pass up the opportunity to painstakingly spell out how her ideas differ from the status quo? Despite ample opportunity, time and time again, the governor failed to specify just how a McCain/Palin administration would differ in any substantive way from the debacle of the Bush/Cheney years. Whether it be the issue of making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, or reviving America’s badly tarnished image around the world, the McPalin Express is easing on down the tracks laid by their woefully unpopular Republican leader. Maverick or not, Palin failed to provide any daylight between the domestic and foreign policy failings of the Bush Administration and just where she and John McCain plan to take the nation in the critical years ahead.
If there is one thing we’ve learned since the earliest of days of this historic electoral season, it is the hard and fast fact that Americans want change. And for good reason. Over the past eight years we’ve gone from peace and prosperity to none of the above. In this year alone, we’ve lost over 600,000 jobs, hit a five-year high unemployment rate, and had millions of families face the personal tragedy of foreclosure. In Iraq we’ve seen the number of American deaths top 4,000, had over 30,000 suffer injuries, and approached a record number of former service men and women who could no longer live with the lingering horrors of war; and as a result, took their own lives.
It’s time for this insanity to end.
Palin may have very well saved her political future from going down Dan Quayle’s road to political oblivion—that is if she avoids like the plague any future in-depth interviews inclusive of follow-up questions that press for specificity. But in the end, of the two candidates who took the stage last night, only one displayed a mastery of the facts, articulated clear plans for the nation’s precarious days ahead, and spoke genuinely of the challenges of raising a family in uncertain and unfortunate times. Joe Biden passed that bar and kept his ticket on the road to success.
For all her winks, smiles, and good-ole-girl vernacular, Palin failed to make a convincing case for McCain’s faltering campaign. We’ve already seen what it’s like to have Joe Six-Pack and a Grumpy Old Man run the nation. Reversing the order on the ticket and changing Joe to Jane, just isn’t good enough.
-By Avis A. Jones-DeWeever for the Women's Media Center. The WMC is a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making the female half of the world visible and powerful in the media.
Sex Politics and Sensibility: More on Morgan
by Kristen Loveland
Robin Morgan wrote an anti-Palin piece a couple of days ago entitled, "When Sisterhood is Suicide," which initiated a debate both on Girl with Pen between Deborah and Courtney, and at Feministing between Deborah, Courtney, and the wide feminist world. Deborah loved the content of the piece, but Courtney argued that its sarcastic, snarky tone was alienating. First, let me say that tone matters. I watched the debates last night in a Brooklyn bar with nary a McCain supporter in sight. In that setting there wasn't a doubt about it: Biden won. He was calm, substantive, and authoritative in his knowledge, and never once attacked Palin personally. The Brooklyn crowd laughed at Palin's folksky "darn its." "Gosh darnit gee golly joe," mocked the guy at the end of the bar. Folksy and "nice" and not snarky, Palin's tone may have been endearing to some crowds, but it wasn't to mine.
So tone matters-- but audience matters more. Who was Robin Morgan addressing in her piece? I didn't get the sense that she was trying to reach across the aisle, that this was the opening salvo in a conversation that would end with some congenial beers at the local bar between Morgan and Joe Hockey Mom McSixpack. This is Robin Morgan, after all.
I don't even think she's talking to a younger generation of feminists, to my generation. Here's why:
Sure, we wanted to vote for the right woman. Sure, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for her. Meanwhile, in Obama we can have a chief executive who reflects our politics, and who—especially since he may have both houses of Congress behind him—just might turn out to be one hell of a great president.
Do not cut off your womb to spite the Democrats. (Also do not sit this election out or play write-in-vote games. And tempting though it may seem, do not blow a vote for the Green Party.)
Morgan sure is rabble-rousing, but she's rabble-rousing to a generation that came of feminist age in the '70s, when the sides were more clearly cut ("us" vs. "the patriarchy"), to whom such angry, snarky speech will hardly be unusual or unwelcome, and who embody the imagined fears of Democrats everywhere. But are these fears real? I've yet to meet a Hillary supporter who has said she will vote for the Green party, or God forbid, Palin, because Hillary didn't get the nom. As a young feminist who is cocooned within a certain generational worldview, I'd really like to know if this phenomenon does exist. And if it does, please watch this.
What I found most effective about Morgan's piece was that she destroys her mantra: Sisterhood is powerful. Sisterhood, after all, is very much a straw man that ignores the realities of how fractured the idea of "woman" is. It's all in her title: When Sisterhood is Suicide. The 1970s idea that all could be solved through coming together and sisterhood ends up being as cynical an idea as McCain thinking he could net a bunch of Hillary supporters by choosing a Woman as VP. First, we realized that there exist racial, sexuality, and economic issues that cannot be brushed under the rug in the name of sisterhood. Now, we realize that there are ideological and policy issues--the right to our bodies, the right to an experienced Vice Presidential candidate--that cannot be ignored in the name of sisterhood.
So is Morgan's rant destructive? Yes. But is it alienating? Well, it won't do much for my generation of feminists, who prefer a more conciliatory and reasoned tone. Then again, there's never been much fear that we're heading the Palin way. And some conservative commentators might love to wave this piece around as evidence that those crazy Feminazis are at it again and don't understand Palin's version of "nice," non-pay-equity, non-choice feminism. But if it does stay within its intended audience, then it could be very effective.
Of course, given the internet, the chance of it hitting only its intended crowd is... next to none.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Check it out, and a hearty welcome to The Real Deal!
In The Washington Post, political reporter Anne Kornblut, who has covered the Obama camp since the start of the election cycle and has also covered Hillary Clinton for the New York Times, shares her thoughts on media bias, her experience as a female journalist working in a mostly male press corps and her expectations for Thursday's vice presidential debate.
Over at Politico, women ex-governors sound off. Among Sarah Palin's class of trailblazing female governors, Palin is not universally embraced for her accomplishments. In interviews with the former governors who agreed to speak on the record, the subject of Palin tended to draw mixed emotions, with opinions sharply divided along partisan lines.
A Time poll shows Obama making headway with women. Propelled by concerns over the financial crisis and a return of support from female voters, Barack Obama has opened a formidable 7-point lead over John McCain, reaching the 50% threshold among likely voters for the first time in the general campaign for President, according to a new TIME poll.
Over at CBS, news anchor Katie Couric asked Biden and Palin some "Vice Presidential Questions." This installment tackles Roe v. Wade and Supreme Court decisions.
The LA Times reports that John McCain's running mate still appeals to many on a personal level, but other voters have grown wary of her experience.
Seen anything else particularly worth sharing? Feel free to post links in comments.
CM: Did you really think she was at her best D? You know I love me some WMC, and I thought it was chock full of interesting details, but I'm not sure this is a terribly effective way to communicate. Seems like a terribly effective way to alienate. And make the converted chuckle.
DS: Ok Court, you made me read it very closely again. I found objectionable parts. Like, "Bottom line: Obama’s book title: Dreams from My Father. McCain’s book title: Faith of My Fathers. Patriarchy? You think? Neither one gets it. BUT. One doesn’t not get it much more than the other." I think of it differently. And I also think this line is a bit of doublespeak: "HRC campaigned intrepidly. But her campaign was unworthy of her—and that’s her fault." If it's her fault, then it's her fault. Just own it. And lastly, this line: "We must never again collaborate in our own invisibility." Not sure I agree with Morgan that that's what happened in the primaries.
But other than that, I did think the piece--full of vitriol, yes, and sure to p** off the nonconverted--was effective in terms of pulling together a lot of what I've been thinking about the Palin-McCain ticket and hence in rallying a base. I do think outrage is called for in the face of McPalin. And I agree it's not exactly a bridge-building kind of piece. But tell me more C -- what specifically turned you off? The tone? The format? The content? I wanna know.
CM: You pointed out lots of the things that irritated me, but even more than that, I just find Morgan's overall tone so alienating. It's like, and I feel bad writing this but it's really how I feel, a feminist Dowd...too clever and snarky and sarcastic to really communicate from the heart. Maybe I'm just cheesy, but my favorite writers get at the HEART of politics. I feel like she's missing heart. (I'm also, totally admittedly, still angry at the way she characterized young feminists in her last controversial piece.)
It all got me thinking a lot about feminist messages and communication styles. Got thoughts on this? I'm curious to hear!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
- In 43% of all couples it’s the woman who makes decisions in more areas than the man.
- By contrast, men make more of the decisions in only about a quarter (26%) of all couples.
- About three-in-ten couples (31%) split decision-making responsibilities equally.
We've known this for a while now, but there is much in the study that also looks new. For instance, on a totally different topic related to gender and power, the survey asked whether people are more comfortable dealing with a man or with a woman in a variety of positions of authority – doctor, banker, lawyer, police officer, airline pilot, school teacher and surgeon. The answer? Well, public attitudes are mixed. Read all about it here.
She begins by offering 10 nice things first, as follows:
Ten Nice Things to Say About Sarah Palin:
- She’s a lifelong NRA member and crack rifle-woman, but hasn’t yet shot a single person in the face.
- She’s so unafraid of power that a majority-Republican legislative committee is investigating her abuse of it.
- She’s broad-minded, willing to have evolution taught alongside creationism.
- She gives “the personal is political” new meaning: Axing the public-safety commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law (Trooper-gate); firing “foes” suspected of “disloyalty” (Library-gate).
- She knows how to delegate, involving “First Dude” husband Todd in more governmental decisions than any male politician’s spouse has dared since Hillary tried to give us healthcare in 1993. (First Dude’s defying a subpoena from those meanies mentioned up in #2.)
- She has executive experience: As mayor of Wasilla, then-constituency 5,000 souls, she presided over a population almost as vast as that of some urban high-schools.
- She’s an existentialist: Bridge-to-Nowhere-gate, Highway-to-Nowhere-gate. She never “focused much on Iraq”—after all, “the war is part of God’s plan”—and she dismisses McCain’s reluctance to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as being like “Eastern politicians” about environment. (Check out Wasilla’s dead-Lake-Lucille-gate.)
- She brings home the earmarked bacon—plus moose, caribou, wolf, and any other animal stumbling haplessly across her rifle-sight as she leans out of the ‘copter on another heli-hunt. But! Does she rely solely on godless government for her $500 million U.S.-subsidized natural-gas pipeline? No! Last June, at the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church, she declared, “God's will has to be done to get that gas line built!”
- She displays refreshing curiosity, as when she asked, “What is it exactly the VP does?” (Don’t scoff: Are you smarter than a 5th grader?)
- She’s multi-talented—studied journalism, tried sportscasting, can slickly scan a teleprompter (unlike her running-mate). She’s a jock (Sports-Complex-gate.) She was a beauty queen (as all of McCain’s wives were; how ‘bout that?) She’s patriotic—well, except for attending that secessionist Alaska Independent Party conference during the seven years when First Dude was a party member pulling down DWI convictions on the side. Best of all, she’s a born-again feminist, a “feminist for life.” Which I guess makes me a feminist for death.
Ten Reasons You CANNOT Support McCain-Palin
- Yourself. Do not cut off your womb to spite the Democrats. (Also do not sit this election out or play write-in-vote games. And tempting though it may seem, do not blow a vote for the Green Party.)
- Iraq. McCain’s been a hawk since evolution made raptors.
- The Economy. For years McCain chaired the Senate Banking Committee that brought us the current financial meltdown. He opposed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have made it easier for women and other workers to pursue pay-discrimination claims. (Come to think of it, why the focus solely on equal pay for equal work? Whatever happened to equal pay for comparable worth?)
- The Supreme Court. McCain vows to stack the court with “clones of Alito and Roberts.” There goes . . . well, everything.
- Choice. McCain has lodged 125 anti-choice votes. He boasts he’ll overturn Roe v. Wade. And as for the claim that if Roe is overturned it will “merely” throw reproductive rights back to the states, understand that McCain supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion outright, nationwide.
- Realism. If you’re a young feminist, do not get disillusioned by Obama’s drift to the middle—depressing but standard for winning. Do consider running for office—politics is not a spectator sport. And if you still can’t grasp why older feminists zealously backed HRC, please read Susan Faludi‘s brilliant “Second Place Citizens” for context. It’s crucial.
- Old Wounds. Remember that McCain’s answer to a supporter asking him about Hillary, “How do we beat the bitch?” was “Good question!” Remember that at the Sturgis motorcycle rally, McCain mortified his wife by saying she should enter the Topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. Remember that, responding to a comment Cindy made about his thinning hair, he guffawed, “At least I don’t plaster on makeup like a trollop, you c**t.”
- Palin. McCain’s pick of Palin demonstrates contempt for American women and insults the intelligence of anyone who supported Hillary, since Palin is her (melting) polar opposite. It denigrates qualified Republican women (Senators Snow, Collins, Dole, and Hutchinson must be suffering silent apoplexy). It’s actually abuse of Palin herself, a sacrifice tossed to the ravenous fundamentalist base, now the butt of public humiliation for her abysmal lack of qualifications.
- Feminism—remember that? McCain-Palin politics are antithetical to every feminist policy most U.S. women support. Palin is an anti-abortion-rights, pro-“abstinence only” enemy of sex education and stem-cell research who denounced as “outrageous” the state supreme court’s decision to strike down Alaska’s parental-consent statute; who believes survivors of sexual assault and incest should be forced to bear the attackers’ fetuses to term; who let Wasilla charge survivors for rape kits and forensic exams; who cut funding for teen-pregnancy services; who stated she’d oppose abortion for her daughters even if they’d been raped; who’s against same-sex marriage (because such love is “curable”) and against gun control—but apparently all for shotgun weddings (poor Bristol’s gonna marry that dork, like it or not).
- Settling for Greatness. Sure, we wanted to vote for the right woman. Sure, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for her. Meanwhile, in Obama we can have a chief executive who reflects our politics, and who—especially since he may have both houses of Congress behind him—just might turn out to be one hell of a great president.
Is this the week that Democrats and Republicans join hands -- to heap pity on poor Sarah Palin?Read the rest here.
At the moment, all signs point to yes, as some strange bedfellows reveal that they have been feeling sorry for the vice-presidential candidate ever since she stopped speaking without the help of a teleprompter. Conservative women like Kathleen Parker and Kathryn Jean Lopez are shuddering with sympathy as they realize that the candidate who thrilled them, just weeks ago, is not in shape for the big game. They're not alone. The New Republic's Christopher Orr feels that Palin has been misused by the team that tapped her. In the New York Times, Judith Warner feels for Sarah, too! And over at the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates empathizes with intelligence and nuance, making clear that he's not expressing pity. Salon's own Glenn Greenwald watched the Katie Couric interview and "actually felt sorry for Sarah Palin." Even Amy Poehler, impersonating Katie Couric on last week's "Saturday Night Live," makes the joke that Palin's cornered-animal ineptitude makes her "increasingly adorable."
I guess I'm one cold dame, because while Palin provokes many unpleasant emotions in me, I just can't seem to summon pity, affection or remorse.