Not Ike. The past two weeks. This is the fifth time I’ve tried to post. There’s way too much to say. So, very quickly:
- The DNC. Heartwarming, uplifting. Reminded me why I’m a liberal and a Democrat. Compassion, civic pride, a belief that forming and executing policy makes America stronger, and that solving national problems is our national talent. And Obama’s acceptance speech deserved to be discussed for more than nine hours.
- Palin. Politically, a clear sign that tacking to the middle to peel off those less-than-infatuated with Obama was going to fail dismally, and a huge and risky concession that the only possible strategy was to completely engage the fundamentalist base that was (and still is) leery of McCain. A brilliant, and entirely successful, convention and campaign strategy: it’s sucked all the oxygen out of the room for two weeks now.
- Palin as a cultural force. I’m in good company with others that thought the first weekend of scandal would cause the fundamentalists to rip her to shreds. I misjudged the utter, complete power of the antiabortion narrative. And it just amazes me that so many Americans are willing to give up every American greatness—governance, science, ethics, compassion, prosperity, military strength—to stop strangers from having abortions.
- Palin as a vice president. Really, truly, she is barely fit for her current office, much less the Vice Presidency (especially as Cheney has defined it.) There are several hundred people more fit and qualified than her: Governors of larger states, Senators and Representatives with better reform records, business leaders or Cabinet officials. Women and men, some with as much pro-life cred. To put her in the front of that line shows cynical, callous disrespect for the United States Government and the people it serves.
- Palin as a symbol of the culture war. Pat Buchanan said it baldly: it’s us vs. them. And he put himself and Palin in the moose-shooting “us” camp, and “affirmative-action, Harvard Law, Columbia” Obama as one of “them.” Mind you, Buchanan wouldn’t know a moose if it wandered into his Columbia ’62 class reunion. This is a phony culture war staged by the Elite Conservatives pretending to side with the Real People Conservatives so they can still be the Elite.
- Palin and feminism. Whatever happens, the face of feminism is changed completely. Often it takes a brash act of tokenism on the part of the conservatives to save face while finally acknowledging the fundamental legitimacy of liberal values. This is one such act. Conservatives have now had to choke down their hypocritical prudishness about divorce, adultery, premarital sex, teen sex, mothers in the workforce, women in authority positions, and even daycare and equal pay in order to accept the McCain/Palin ticket. If we gain nothing more from this experience, at least conservatism has lurched forward into the late twentieth century.
- Palin as an actual feminist. In short: She’s not. Instead of breaking the glass ceiling by standing on the shoulders of the great ones who came before her, she’s standing on their toes, in spiky heels. She infuriates actual feminists by benefiting from a century of feminist struggle, but turns around and repudiates the key issue that drove the sexual revolution: freedom from male and state control of women’s sexuality. Being wobbly on birth control, strongly anti-choice (for others, while cherishing the “decision” her daughter had), and emphasizing that to succeed in a man’s world a woman has to be sexually attractive to men, she’s a parody of feminism, not its apotheosis.
- Palin and sexism. The two-facedness and mixed messages shouldn’t shock me; she’s clearly a product of our extremely confused sexual ethic in America. For people to question her qualifications is somehow sexist, but for GOP delegates to wear “Palin/Babe ’08” buttons isn’t. She’s tough as steel, but Biden better watch out and not bully her. Questioning or even discussing the choices she made in the birth of her fifth child send her team to the fainting couch with a fit of the vapors, but she parades those same decisions in her stump speech as fundamental qualifications for office. It’s breathtaking. Clearly, after having for decades derided sexism as whining, man-hating, hypocrisy, or self-loathing victimhood, the Right is clearly having a hard time figuring out what it is when they need to accuse others of it. They know as much about sexism as they do about socialism; to them it’s just a new brush to tar others with.
- The Cavalcade of Lies. The end of the Palin Oxygen-Sucking Phase has been the newfound attack on Aristotelean logic and the Ninth Commandment being waged by the McCain campaign. The Bridge to Nowhere lie, the Plane on Ebay lie, the No Earmarks lie, the Sex Ed in Kindergarten lie, the Lipstick lie, the lobbyists lie, the National Guard lie, the he’ll-raise-your-taxes lie, the Tiny Iran lie, the never-changed-my-position lie, the Drilling Will Help Now lie… it’s mind-boggling. And these aren’t arm’s-length, plausible-deniablity 527s. These are stump speeches and TV ads with the FEC-required candidate approval notice. Even the saner parts of the conservative movement are scratching their head in wonderment why McCain, enjoying such a bounce from the convention, needs to sink so low so fast.
I’d really like to write a short essay on each of the above points. They’re piling on each other so fast I can’t, even though I’ve been on vacation and have had little more pressing than walking the kids down to the bus stop to go to school. But I’ll try to pick up in real time, and come back to these as they remain relevant.