The Post-Palin Feminist Manifesto

I am scared for the women of America. Really scared. And disturbed, too.

Two days ago, I chatted with an old friend who will not be voting because she hates Obama for being a racist and the Democratic Party is just as evil. She holds the Democrats and Obama responsible for Hillary’s loss and attributes it to deep seeded sexism in the party. Then she puts Hillary and Palin in the same sentence attributing all the things that have been said about Palin to this same Democratic Party sexism. Palin is not deserving of any of the criticism and Obama is to blame for not coming out and giving a speech to stop the sexism. See my previous post.

Then yesterday, I was on Huffington Post and came across an article (a link to The Daily Beast) about how a former Democratic Party speech writer (for Edwards, Obama and Clinton) has decided to back McCain because the Democrats are mean to Palin (and Joe the Plumber.)

Since I started writing speeches more than ten years ago, I have always believed in the Democratic Party. Not anymore. Not after the election of 2008. This transformation has been swift and complete and since I’m a woman writing in the election of 2008, “very emotional.”

Wait a minute, because I am a woman, it is “emotional?”

When I entered this campaign, it was at the 2006 Edwards staff Christmas party. My nametag read “Millie Worker.”

Why? Her name is Wendy Button, huh?

When former Senator John Edwards read it, he laughed and said, “That makes you like my parent.” He went on to say, “Would you please come down to Chapel Hill so we can talk about what’s coming up.” I sat in John and Elizabeth’s living room for two and half hours. I left North Carolina, energized about politics for the first time in months.

I didn’t hear from anyone for three weeks.

When I finally received the official offer, it was the kind of political offer that said, “Go away.” That happens. It’s their campaign and I just assumed that I had been pushed out. The problem was that I had canceled a number of freelance writing jobs because I had assumed that when John said, “Start right away” I would. I needed a job right away and so I took the one in front of me with Senator Barack Obama.

The first strike against the Democratic Party. Edwards changed his mind about a speechwriter, snubbed her.

When we first met, Obama and I had a nice conversation about speeches and writing, and at the end of the meeting I handed him a pocket-sized bottle of Grey Poupon mustard so he wouldn’t have to ask staff if it was okay to put it on his hamburger.

Is it just me or is this a really strange exchange. Why would he have to ask his staff if it was okay? And why was she carrying around pocket-sided bottles of Grey Poupon and bringing them to meetings to hand out to prospective clients?

At the bottom of the bottle was the logo for “The South Beach Diet” and he snapped, “Oh so you read People magazine.” He seemed to think that I was commenting on his bathing suit picture.

This is strange, too. Strike number two. Obama “snapped” at her, thinking she was saying he was fat(?)

I helped with his announcement speech and others. I worked in the Senate when he was in D.C. One day after a hearing on Darfur, we were walkig back to the office. I was still hobbling from a very bad ankle injury and in a very kind and gentle way he offered his arm when we approached the stairs. But later in debate preps and phone conversations and meetings, I realized that I had made a mistake. I didn’t belong. No matter how hard I tried, my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

And we are to just fill in the blanks about what happened between the offering of an arm and her heart not being in it anymore?

See campaigns get complicated when you’ve written for so many Democrats. Not only had I written for Senator Edwards, but I had also been Senator Hillary Clinton’s speechwriter. Senator Joe Biden is a “good looking” man

What is this about? Is this her little sexist joke?

and his care after my father almost died from an aneurysm is the kind of kindness you never forget. When I saw Edwards at a traffic light in D.C. about a year after our meeting, he asked for help and I did and it was an honor to help him with his concession speech.

Excuse me for asking but did Edwards ask her to write his concession speech at a stop light?

And when the primary ended, it was a privilege to help Michelle Obama with a stump speech, be considered as a speechwriter for the V.P. nominee again, and send friends in Chicago ideas until the financial crisis hit. This is what the Democratic Party has been for me; it’s family. Now, it doesn’t even feel like a distant cousin.

This drift started on a personal level with the fall of former Senator John Edwards. It got stronger during the Democratic National Convention when I counted the substantive mentions of poverty on one hand and a whole bunch of bad canned partisan lines against Senator John McCain.

Oh, evil Democrats for being partisan at their convention. I’m sure Palin didn’t do that at hers. And I don’t remember the Republicans’ dozens of substantive mentions of poverty. Maybe I sneezed and missed that. Is she kidding? So community organizer is not worried about poverty enough, but Palin who actually mocked community organizers is your choice?

Some faith was lifted after Senator Hillary Clinton’s grace during a difficult hour. But that faith was dashed when I saw that someone had raided the Caligula set and planted the old columns at Invesco Field.

Foul ball. Theatricality is so Anti-American. Thank God, the Republicans only went with a catwalk in front of a huge green screen onto which they mistakenly projected a mansion instead of Walter Reed Hospital. So you switched parties because they put on a better show?

The final straw came the other week when Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (a.k.a Joe the Plumber) asked a question about higher taxes for small businesses. Instead of celebrating his aspirations, they were mocked. He wasn’t “a real plumber,” and “They’re fighting for Joe the Hedge-Fund manager,” and the patronizing, “I’ve got nothing but love for Joe the Plumber.”

Strike three. Yer out!!! Joe the Plumber is above reproach. When you (meaning the press) make fun of him and you make fun of all Americans. I guess Obama’s talking to him sensibly there on the spot and explaining his tax plan was disrespectful? Who was it that brought him up over and over without vetting the man in the debates? Who has pushed this tax-evading liar into the media and uses him on campaign stops now? Who’s tax plan would be better for Joe?

Having worked in politics, I know that absolutely none of this is on the level. This back and forth is posturing, a charade, and a political game. These lines are what I refer to as “hooker lines”—a sure thing to get applause and the press to scribble as if they’re reporting meaningful news.

I believe you should be more sensitive and call them “sex worker” lines.

As the nation slouches toward disaster, the level of political discourse is unworthy of this moment in history. We have Republicans raising Ayers and Democrats fostering ageism with “erratic” and jokes about Depends. Sexism. Racism. Ageism and maybe some Socialism have all made their ugly cameos in election 2008. It’s not inspiring. Perhaps this is why I found the initial mocking of Joe so offensive and I realized an old line applied: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me.”

So no matter what the Republicans have said and they have sunk to the lowest tactics in my memory, the Democratic Party left you?

The party I believed in wouldn’t look down on working people under any circumstance.

And you have bought entirely into the lies of the Republicans about what it the narrative here. You walked away from the party that has fought longest and hardest for working people.

And Joe the Plumber is right. This is the absolutely worst time to raise taxes on anyone: the rich, the middle class, the poor, small businesses and corporations.

Yes, Joe the Plumber is the economist we should all be listening to now. How does he suggest we get out of the economic mess? Cut taxes more? Oh, it doesn’t matter to him since he doesn’t pay any.

Our economy is in the tank for many complicated reasons, especially because people don’t have enough money. So let them keep it. Let businesses keep it so they can create jobs and stay here and weather this storm.

Close down the government while you’re at it since it actually needs money to run. We don’t need infrastructure or emergency services or any of those pesky regulatory things like FDA or EPA.

And yet, the Democratic ideology remains the same. Our approach to problems—big government solutions paid for by taxing the rich and big and smaller companies—is just as tired and out of date as trickle down economics. How about a novel approach that simply finds a sane way to stop the bleeding?

The Republican party has presided over the biggest growth of government and spending in history and you are blaming the Democrats! What have you been drinking?

That’s not exactly the philosophy of a Democrat. Not only has this party belittled working people in this campaign from Joe the Plumber to the bitter comments, it has also been part of tearing down two female candidates. At first, certain Democrats and the press called Senator Clinton “dishonest.”

I am sure every word from her mouth must have been gospel. I voted for her but she is a politician and called her opponents names, too.


The other Democrats? Name names.

went after her cleavage. They said her experience as First Lady consisted of having tea parties. There was no outrage over “Bros before Hoes” or “Iron My Shirt.” Did Senator Clinton make mistakes? Of course. She’s human.

Again with the Bros before Hoes. Seems to be a hot button for Obama haters. My friends brought it up in her dismissal of him, too. Did Obama approve that message?

But here we are about a week out and it’s déjà vu all over again. Really, front-page news is how the Republican National Committee paid for Governor Sarah Palin’s wardrobe? Where’s the op-ed about how Obama tucks in his shirt when he plays basketball or how Senator Biden buttons the top button on his golf shirt?

Again, you blame the party for what the media have been talking about. If Sarah Palin were out making substantive speeches or doing a press conference, do you think it would not be covered? It would be front page, since she has been so sequestered through this campaign. If the Democratic National Committee had gone out and bought Obama 20 new Armani suits and shoes to go with and paid for it with donor’s money, do you really think that would not have been news? If he had wrapped himself in the I’m just an average Joe like you and shown up wearing a $5,000 suit, or had a couple of $400 haircuts (like your former friend John Edwards), do you really think no one would have said anything? The Hockey Mom wears Prada? And you think a man with 7+ houses and 13+ cars understands and stands for the working man?

Oh right, this story goes to the sincerity of her Hockey Mom persona. What planet am I living on? Everyone knows that when it comes to appearance, there’s a double standard for women politicians. Remember the speech Speaker Pelosi gave on the floor the day of the bailout vote? Check out how many stories commented on her hair that day and how many mentioned Congressman Barney Frank’s.

Here we are discussing Governor Palin’s clothes—oh wait, now we’re on to the make-up—not what either man is going to do to save our economy. This isn’t an accident. It is part of a manufactured narrative that she is stupid.

If she ever came out and talked to the press she would either confirm that impression or change the opinion, but she and her handlers decided not to let her. Why would that be if she is so smart?

Governor Palin and I don’t agree on a lot of things, mostly social issues. But I have grown to appreciate the Governor. I was one of those initial skeptics and would laugh at the pictures. Not anymore. When someone takes on a corrupt political machine and a sitting governor, that is not done by someone with a low I.Q. or a moral core made of tissue paper. When someone fights her way to get scholarships

Wah! Beauty contests are so hard!

and work her way through college even in a jagged line, that shows determination and humility you can’t learn from reading Reinhold Niebuhr. When a mother brings her son with special needs onto the national stage with love, honesty, and pride, that gives hope to families like mine as my older brother lives with a mental disability.

Carrying your child on stage says nothing. What was she doing for kids with special needs before she had one?

And when someone can sit on a stage during the Sarah Palin rap on Saturday Night Live, put her hands in the air and watch someone in a moose costume get shot—that’s a sign of both humor and humanity.

She looked like a moose caught in the headlights and as for humor, she was the butt of it, not a part of it.

Has she made mistakes? Of course, she’s human too. But the attention paid to her mistakes has been unprecedented compared to Senator Obama’s “57 states” remarks or Senator Biden using a version of the Samuel Johnson quote, “There’s nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus a man’s thoughts.”

Whenever she opens her mouth without a cue card, she makes a mistake. That is very different from a slip of the tongue from Obama or a slight misquote from Biden. If she were a man, think Dan Quayle, the media would be just as rough but the sexism excuse would be gone. Perhaps we should just agree that pretty and dumb is not a politically advantageous coupling.

And now that you are a Republican you can spout all the party lines.

We can talk about the wardrobe and make-up even though most people don’t understand the details about Senator Obama’s plan with Iraq. When he says, “all combat troops,” he’s not talking about all troops—it leaves a residual force of as large as 55,000 indefinitely. That’s not ending the war; that’s half a war.

I was dead wrong about the surge and thought it would be a disaster. Senator John McCain led when many of us were ready to quit. Yet we march on as if nothing has changed, wedded to an old plan, and that too is a long way from the Democratic Party.

What? She lost me there.

I can no longer justify what this party has done and can’t dismiss the treatment of women

Yeah, those Republicans are all about women’s rights and McCain’s record shows how much he really thinks of women.

and working people as just part of the new kind of politics.

Yeah, the Republican party is all about working class people and that is why the gap between the rich and the poor has widened to its widest under these 8 Bush years.

It’s wrong and someone has to say that. And also say that the Democratic Party’s talking points—that Senator John McCain is just four more years of the same and that he’s President Bush—are now just hooker lines that fit a very effective and perhaps wave-winning political argument…doesn’t mean they’re true. After all, he is the only one who’s worked in a bipartisan way on big challenges.

And like Katie Couric when she asked Palin to name some of those big accomplishments, we’re waiting to hear what they are.

Before I cast my vote, I will correct my party affiliation and change it to No Party or Independent.

Try GOP since you drank the Kool Aid.

Then, in the spirit of election 2008, I’ll get a manicure, pedicure, and my hair done. Might as well look pretty when I am unemployed in a city swimming with “D’s.”

Whatever inspiration I had in Chapel Hill two years ago is gone. When people say how excited they are about this election, I can now say, “Maybe for you. But I lost my home.”

If this article is any indication of this woman’s writing style and her abilities, then I understand why Edwards, et al let her go. She is incapable of writing a cohesive or persuasive argument. Maybe it is because she is an “emotional” woman. Or maybe it is because they put more in the GOP Kool Aid than water and sugar. But still, the fact that she got this published and that she is not alone in her looniness, is scary.
But I think it time to add some perspective from a true feminist here for a moment.

This isn’t the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton’s candidacy stood for — and that Barack Obama’s still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, “Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs.”

Thanks Gloria.

Unfortunately though today’s article titled Sarah Palin’s a Brainiac which my brother forwarded to me was from The Daily Beast again (guess they think they are being radical and feminist somehow?), that claims that Sarah Palin is indeed a smart woman who has been mischaracterized.

The former editor in chief of Ms. magazine (and a Democrat) on what she learned on a campaign plane with the would-be VP.

It’s difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin’s “intelligence,” coming especially from women such as PBS’s Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes—God help me, I’m agreeing with Fred Barnes—suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I’m a Democrat, but I’ve worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin’s nomination.

Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women’s rights.

What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

Does knowing who you are translate into anything about relevant experience or practical knowledge of the world? Are we to think that a man who has written his autobiography doesn’t know who he is? And it is really too bad she has not been able to articulate to the country who she is and what she is about. Hockey Mom. Pro-Life. Pit Bull.

Now by “smart,” I don’t refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don’t really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I’d heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

For all those old enough to remember Senator Sam Ervin, the brilliant strict constitutional constructionist and chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee whose patois included “I’m just a country lawyer”…Yup, Palin is that smart.

Now as someone who is related to Sam Ervin, I take great exception to this characterization. His was an intellect cloaked in a country lawyer, a decidely non-ideological constitutional lawyer who has been unmatched in the Congress. A Harvard lawyer, a “liberal” with great respect for the constitution. I seriously doubt that Palin has read the document and as someone running for the highest office in the land, she should know it inside and out. A quick study, a photographic memory do not make her a scholar with any insight, any reference and authority.

So no simple task then, this speech on women’s rights. For the sin of being a Christian personally opposed to abortion, Palin is being pilloried by the inside-the-Beltway Democrat feminist establishment. (Yes, she is anti-abortion. And yes, instead of buying organic New Zealand lamb at Whole Foods, she joins other Alaskans in hunting for food. That’s it. She is not a right-wing nut, and all the rest of the Internet drivel—the book banning at the Library, the rape kits decision—is nonsense. I digress.)

You don’t digress, you lie. She most assuredly did agree to charge rape victims for their rape kits. And did so knowingly in the state with the highest per capita rape rates in the country.

[Media Matters] Palin had clearly signed off on a fiscal-year budget that reduced by three-quarters the amount of money the town set aside annually for rape-kit costs and that the rape-kit reduction was spelled out before the fiscal-year 2000 budget was approved by Mayor Sarah Palin on April 26, 1999.

Here’s what Palin’s hand-picked police chief told a reporter for the local newspaper, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, in 2000 after the state outlawed the practice of billing victims for rape kits: “In the past, we’ve charged the cost of the exams to the victim’s insurance company when possible.” If they didn’t have insurance, then it was their own cost.

Yes, you read that correctly. Palin’s own police chief freely discussed how the town of Wasilla had charged “the victim’s insurance company” for the post-assault exam. (He opposed the new state law that forced Wasilla to stop.)

Trying to claim that the “liberals” are concocting a smear here is vile.

Palin’s role in this campaign was to energize “the Republican base,” which she has inarguably done. She also was expected to reach out to Hillary Clinton “moderates.” (Right. Only a woman would get both those jobs in either party.) Look, I am obviously personally pro-choice, and I disagree with McCain and Palin on that and a few other issues. But like many other Democrats, including Lynn Rothschild, I’m tired of the Democratic Party taking women for granted. I also happen to believe Sarah Palin supports women’s rights, deeply and passionately.

Here I am scratching my head. What does she support? She opposes comprehensive, medically accurate sex education. And is supporting a candidate for president with one of the most anti-women voting records in all of the Senate. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act which ensures rape survivors are not charged for the emergency exams used to prosecute their attackers. Ring a bell, Sarah? He opposes commonsense funding to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies, opposes requiring health care plans to cover prescription birth control (but Viagra is fine), and opposes equal pay legislation, saying it wouldn’t do “anything to help the rights of women.” And Sarah has not spoken out once against any of his record on these matters. Where is this feminist you speak of hiding?

Many of those—not all—who decried the sexist media treatment of Hillary Clinton have been silent as Palin has been skewered in the old ways that female public figures are skewered, as well as a host of sexualized new ways as well. Some feminists have weighed in; “Even the reportedly clear glasses she wears to play down her beauty queen credential and enhance her gravitas can’t make up for experience,” writes my heroine Suzanne Braun Levine, former editor of Ms. Oppose her on policy? Fine. But how sad for feminist leaders to sink this low, especially when Palin has worn glasses since she was 10 years old.

Last month a prominent feminist blogger, echoing that sensibility, declared that the media was wrongly buying into the false idea that Palin was a feminist. Why? Well, just because she said she was a feminist, because she supported women’s rights and opportunities, equal pay, Title IV—that was just “empty rhetoric,” they said.

That she has signed on for the Republican anti-women’s agenda doesn’t matter?

At least the blogger didn’t go as far as NOW’s Kim Gandy and declare that Palin was not a woman. Bottom line: you are not a feminist until we say you are. And there you have the formula for diminishing what was once a great and important mass social change movement to an exclusionary club that rejects women who sincerely want to join and, God forbid, grow to lead.

But here is the good news: women, citizens of America’s high and low culture, the Economist and People magazine readers, will get it. They got it with Hillary even when feminist leaders were not supporting her or doing so half-heartedly.

Again, to link Palin and Hillary is such an insult to what Hillary stands for and what Palin wants to take away from women everywhere. This idea that Palin by virtue of saying she is a feminist, is helping women, absent any action on her part it ridiculous.

Yes, Palin is a harder sell, she looks and sounds different, and one can rightfully oppose her based on abortion policies. If you only vote on how a person personally feels about abortion, you will never want her to darken your door.

Except for abortion you can go along with her? Really? All of the rest of the her views on women’s issues you’re fine with? Abstinence only? No sex ed? Shooting wolves from airplanes? Lying about her record on spending? Ethics?

If you care about anything else, she will continue to intrigue you. As Time’s Nancy Gibbs noted a few weeks ago, quoting bioethicist Tom Murray, “Sympathy and subtlety are seasonings rarely applied to political red meat.” Will Palin’s time come next week? I don’t know. But her time will come.

I hope this is wrong. Palin and feminism do not go together. You do not make rape victims pay for their own rape kits and call yourself a feminist. You do not preach to young girls that abstinence only is better than real sex education and then deny them abortion if they get pregnant and call yourself a feminist. You do not force young rape and incest victims to bear the children of their rapists and call yourself a feminist. You do not ride the coat tails of a well known misogynist into the White House and call yourself a feminist. You do not belittle other women who are battling their way to the office as “whiners” then hide behind your handlers and call yourself a feminist.


1 Comment

Filed under Politics

One response to “The Post-Palin Feminist Manifesto

  1. thereginamom

    Well done! Palin’s feminism is a feminism of convenience, not of a deep commitment to the well-being of women and their families.

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