Thursday, September 04, 2008

OH NO! 0-8!: Meet the Palins...

Senator John McCain's pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been hailed as a risk and a political ploy. With the revelation of her daughter's pregnancy it seemed for a moment that it would pan out as an error in judgment. However, Palin's Christian credentials are just what he might need to keep the Religious Right from staying home on November 4th and pull in a few undecideds.

What Palin's selection is unlikely to do is pull in uncertain Clinton voters to McCain. Clinton has worked overtime to get them to Obama's camp with a level of success. Polls indicate as much, anyway.

Palin was an obscure choice and whose small-town values and gender will bring out voters who won't vote Democrat anyway. She doesn't alter the electoral math as much as she energizes the base. The discovery of her daughter's pregnancy may not have been as much of a surprise as had been thought. The decision to reveal it publically was a tactical move to clamp down on rumors Palin's youngest child was in fact Bristol's (Palin's pregnant daughter). However, they spun the whole thing as a celebration of life and praised Bristol's decision to "keep" the baby marry the father. Anybody, Democrat or Republican would praise somebody's decision to keep their baby and marry the father. However, marrying the father is not always possible or even appropriate.

The problem that Bristol's pregnancy offers is that spinning Palin as like a number of other moms of pregnant teens and a pro-life/pro-family issue, oversimplifies what other women and girls face in similar situations. Religious and family groups, by condemning women who do not marry their children's father, make it sound like all women are simply trying to implement a radical feminist misandronist agenda. Moreover, the same religious conservatives often, though not universally, will demand a woman have her baby and then fail to offer a helping hand or support social programs for her and that baby.

Palin's hypocrsy arises not because of what her daughter does. Rather it stems from her position of abstinence-only sex education. What Palin's second trimester daughter and her boyfriend suddenly turned fiance did or failed to do is not really important. Obviously they did not care about abstinences and unless Palin's never had the birds and bees talk, went ahead eyes wide open. However, withholding valuable information and education from school children, particularly public schoolchildren is simply wrong. Again and again abstinence only education has shown to bring down neither teenage pregnancy, STD prevalence, and teen/young adult/pre-marital sex. Nor has education about safe sex shown any increase in teenage promiscuity.

The Obama camp wisely dismissed the issue as immaterial and irrelevant to the campaign. Perhaps, Obama missed an opportunity or took the high road, when he failed to mention that Bristol Palin is lucky that she has the option and support of her family and her husband-to-be as she goes forward; many other thousands if not millions of women simply do not.

However, Sarah Palin is not all about her daughter. An NPR report from Alaska painted a poor picture of the last 20 months under her rule. Palin beat Frank Murkowski, whose scandals and neopatism (he was a Senator who selected his daughter to replace him upon moving to Juneau) made him lose the GOP primary in 2006. Aside from attempting to banish oil interests from Alaskan government (sorta), Palin's time has been uneventful and frought with "alienation" and not consensus-building. Again sorta. Her style of governance drove GOP leaders in the statehouse to join forces with the Democrats to get things done. She opposed "excess" spending to cities and towns, except Wasilla, where she had been mayor. The commentary from NPR suggested that her popularity has been due to a confluence of positive factors in Alaska in general, not her administration.

News reports abound that point out Palin has not engaged either of Alaska's Foreign neighbors. The GOP has attempted to say that simply due to Alaska's geography she has the experience, but the record reflects otherwise. Thus, Democrats and commentators have called into question Palin's ability to assume the presidency.

Perhaps the most sinister part of Palin being number two will only be known if McCain wins. If she is able to channel her position into a strong voice of the relgious wing of the GOP, a wing that maintains a level of mutual suspicion regarding John McCain, then the separation of church and state will face its greatest danger yet.

Palin's speech last night did what VP candidates do, attack the competition. Palin, in language far meaner, and far more simplistic than anything Clinton said, called into question Obama's preparedness. She spoke about how she made more decisions as mayor than Obama as a community activist. However, Obama was also a State Senator and a US Senator. The areans are different and offer a different perspective of government. However, the transition between legislative and executive jobs is made all the time. Moreover, experience for experience, Joe Biden, also possessing and everyman story can outmatch Mrs. Palin anyday.

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