Let me start by saying that I am a registered independent. I don’t want anyone to feel they have my vote based on an affiliation I chose when I turned 18, and I don’t want to ever get complacent about my ability to vote. I drove home to South Carolina when I was in college (in North Carolina) so that I could vote in my first election in the fall of 1992. I cried when I hit submit on the voting machine. And voting has continued to hold that same magic for me ever since. When I was a high school United States history teacher, I loved talking about elections and about the movements led by everyday people– to show my students how things are done in this country and what they can do– based on a grand design conceived more than 200 years ago. In 2000, I stayed up all night long watching the election results come in, states getting called, retracted, Tim Russert holding up a dry erase board that said, Florida, Florida, Florida, watching this all hang in the delicate balance of hanging chads influencing the electoral college (I hate the electoral college but, whatever, we won’t get into that right now), and, then, in the delicate balance of the court system. I still show up at the precinct every time there is a vote– even if it’s for just one thing– because I find it so important and empowering. And I still get choked up at the precinct when I hit submit.
For a political junkie, this election cycle has been particularly thrilling. And last week’s DNC did not disappoint. I was especially touched by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton’s speeches on Monday and Tuesday night. Each was so profound and, I felt, transcended gender. It is what this country needs, it is what women need, I thought, for all of us to understand that women can transcend gender– because so few men believe that we can. We are good at sports, for a woman. We are good at politics, for a woman. We are good at business, for a woman. The “for a woman” tag line undoes me. And with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton’s speeches last week– their content, wisdom, conviction, I thought some significant damage might be done to the way some use astericks to discredit or marginalize our worth. But for whatever steps were taken forward last week, I can’t help but feel like we took several steps backwards on Friday with the selection of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republican party. While many see her selection as a giant leap forward for women, especially in the GOP, I can’t help but feel patronized. Not by Palin, mind you. All she did was pick up her phone last Sunday (just a week ago), and hear John McCain ask her if they could talk about the possibility of being his running mate. Who wouldn’t say yes to that? I feel pandered to by McCain and other men like him who read this situation and interpreted it in certain ways. It is as he might believe that I, and other women, lack the nuance to understand all that is essential to being an effective world leader. As if I, and other women, am only capable of reacting emotionally to a decision and not intellectually. As if I, as a woman, only vote on one issue or distinction and not on a whole host of complex considerations of the issues. As if I, as a woman, might just be shallow enough to be so grateful that there is a female nominee that I would vote just on boob politics.
What say you about women and politics in light of the events of last week? What did you think of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton’s speeches? What do you think of the nomination of Sarah Palin and her introductory address to the nation? And as the RNC unfold this coming week, what are your thoughts and observations?