I realize that Sen. John McCain made a bold choice in naming Gov. Sarah Palin his vice presidential candidate. Good for him. It is a bold stroke and another crack in that ultimate glass ceiling. But everything that has happened since, in regard to decisions made by the McCain campaign, has been anything but encouraging for the cause of women in leadership. In fact, it reeks of paternalism and sexism. I’m not kidding.
Palin handled the pressure and initial scrutiny of becoming a VP candidate. Her speech was delivered incredibly well. Her moment on the world stage was beyond all expectations. It was truly a triumph.
But what happened? Palin disappeared. She was walled off from the real world by a manufactured message, a puppet maneuvered by strings. McCain assures us that Sarah Palin is ready and able to be a heartbeat away from the presidency; yet we, the public, are not given any measure of access to make that determination ourselves.
Speeches are scripted, candidate is whisked away
Speeches are carefully scripted. Appearances are folksy but off limits to questions. Rallies are exuberant and boisterous, but the candidate is whisked away before questions can be asked. When a major interview was finally granted, it has conditions and surroundings of the campaign’s choosing.
It all reeks of stagecraft, choreography, and a filtered message. It is almost a political reality-TV show.
There are real questions that need to be asked. If Sarah Palin were not a woman, would this hiding behind the curtain have been done? Does McCain, in his heart, think that a woman is not really capable of handling the press, the scrutiny, or the job? If that is not true, then why the “protective custody” of his running mate? I doubt that she became Alaska’s governor by being demure and deferential.
Palin had enough political savvy to outmaneuver a corrupt Alaskan GOP and then take on a well-known Democrat in the general election. That sounds more like the self-described pit bull persona she stated in her speech than a timid and deferential church lady that the McCain campaign seems to be protecting.
What is McCain’s message?
What is McCain trying to tell us? That a woman can run for high office, but must have supervision? That she needs the guiding, paternal hand of an experienced father figure in order to be in the public eye? Has McCain found a new version of sexism to shackle women candidates while at the same time crying foul at words from his opponents?
It is hard to judge if this is really a step forward. This is certainly not the vision of a woman candidacy that Hillary Clinton supporters eagerly anticipated. And I doubt that, as we move forward, Republicans will be satisfied with this mechanically engineered “Stepford” persona.
I think Sarah Palin is better than that — and the women of this country certainly expect and deserve better than that.
David Mindeman is a community activist and lead blogger for mnpACT!.
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