Palin: The Opposite of Progress

Wednesday, 17 September 2008 11:59 By Cynthia Boaz, t r u t h o u t | Perspective | name.

Palin: The Opposite of Progress
Cynthia Boaz asks if voters have been duped, once again, by the Rovian rhetoric machine. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Late last week, the first round of post-RNC convention polls showed that John McCain was the beneficiary of a generous 11-point bump in public approval. Most of this shift is attributable to previously undecided voters who've broken in McCain's favor. The reason given by the vast majority as to what precipitated their decision: Palin. Amongst these voters, three subgroups emerged as overwhelmingly shifting to the McCain/Palin ticket over the Obama/Biden one in the past week: women, Catholics, and self-identified moderates. At first glance, these changes in opinion might seem unsurprising given the intensely populist tone that pervaded every convention speech from Monday through Thursday. But look below the surface, and these shifts seem positively surreal. Is it possible that voters have, once again, been duped by the Rovian rhetoric machine? Are we really as gullible as the GOP seems to think? Apparently so.

    Let's start with women, most of whom we can reasonably presume are adherents of some form of feminism (which in the most general sense is simply the belief that rights and liberties should not be distributed on the basis of sex.) Many are disaffected Clinton supporters; many others have never - for one reason or another - felt completely at home in the Republican Party. Until now. Given that Palin's positions on "women's issues," from reproductive rights to health care, are 180 degrees from the mainstream feminist base, one can only conclude that for many women, sharing a piece of anatomy is a more powerful source of solidarity than shared beliefs, values or principles. With all due respect to my fellow fairer-sex sisters, those of you for whom the idea of a woman in office is more exciting than good public policy are doing all of us a disservice. Palin, no matter how you slice it, will not represent us when it comes to the issues that feminists from every stripe and for every decade have worked to promote. And to add insult to injury, it could not be more obvious that Sarah Palin is being used by the men in her own party to galvanize disgruntled female voters. Is there anyone out there who could argue with a straight face that Palin would have been picked if she'd been a man? Despite the degrading nature of this strategy, to my astonishment (and apparent naiveté) the polls suggest that it is working. So I feel compelled to ask. Do we really want to legitimize the worst anti-feminist stereotypes about women as a group? People (not just women) who genuinely care about so-called women's issues have simply no alternative but to vote against the McCain/Palin ticket. It really is as simple as that.

    The surge of Catholic support for McCain/Palin is less shocking, but equally disturbing. The obvious explanation for this support is Palin's adamant opposition to abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk. But historically, Catholics, who tend to favor the Democratic Party, have never been single-issue voters, and the larger theme around which they have organized their ideological distribution is human rights. And on that question, there is no debate. Palin fails miserably. This is the woman who said that the war in Iraq was "a task from God." Oh really, Governor? The Catholic faith preaches that it is only priests and saints who have a direct line to the will of God. So which of these is Sarah Palin? Catholicism is the source of liberation theology, whose adherents are some of the most dedicated social justice activists in the world. To grasp the magnitude of the gulf between the rhetoric of the very progressive Catholic human rights stance and the positions of Sarah Palin, I suggest watching the film "Romero" and then following it up with a screening of Palin's convention speech. Then explain to me how Catholic support for Palin is rational. Seriously, someone please do that.

    Which brings us to self-identified moderates. Frankly, this one baffles me the most. There is nothing - repeat, nothing - about Sarah Palin that could be described as "moderate." By adding her to the ticket, McCain the Maverick moved himself ten clicks to the right. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that Palin's views on most issues tend towards extremist. So what is her appeal to moderates? It has to be the populist draw of her "small-town girl makes good" story. But while that storyline makes for a popular Hollywood blockbuster, it is hardly the basis for a real-life presidency. I understand that it's verboten to bring up McCain's age, but we have to get real. John McCain is 72-years-old and has a history of health problems. There is more than a miniscule chance that if he won the presidency, Sarah Palin would, at some point, be asked to replace him. This is a woman whose main foreign policy credentials (according to her own party) consist of living in a state that borders Russia. Setting aside what this does to McCain's credibility on the question of judgment, it is utter madness to put Palin's folksy appeal above our long-term security and wellbeing.

    I've had it with the GOP (Karl Rove, I'm talking to you) bringing down the state of discourse in this country. And I'm tired of it working. Voters are not the complete morons that the GOP takes them for - they're just overworked and uninformed. But the recent polling results once again beg the question: Are we capable of doing better, or are we going to continue to live down to the GOP's cynical expectations of us?

    In recent weeks, I have heard talk-radio incessantly repeating the mantra that in 2008, no matter who wins the presidential election, we will have "progressed" as a political culture. That logic is not only simplistic, it's patently untrue. A McCain/Palin victory would be a clear step backward for all voters of conscience, and would likely be the final shameful cleavage in the ever-widening gap between the United States and the global community.

Cynthia Boaz

Cynthia Boaz, Ph.D., is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, where she specializes in nonviolent movements and quality of democracy. She is vice president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and is on the board of directors of Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation.

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 12:38