Thursday, September 4, 2008

McCain Campaign Pulls the Sexism Card

In an interesting turn of events, the McCain campaign yesterday cried foul against the media and the Democrats for attacking Palin based not on her lack of credentials or any of that, but because she is a woman. And while I will be the first to admit that there have been some sexist attacks on Palin (she should not be asked if she can raise a family and have a career at the same time when men are not asked the same question), she should not be able to hide behind a cloak of gender against all legitimate questions of her credentials.

What makes the McCain camp's cries of sexism a bit hypocritical is the fact that last month they were deriding Obama for, in their words, "playing the race card." Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, said, "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck." All of this because Obama said that one tactic of his opponents will be to paint him as "different from the presidents on dollar bills," implying that his skin color (or age) differentiates him from some of the Founding Fathers and Washington elite. In terms of saying, "Hey, they're going to attack me because I'm black," it never happened, but to many that is an inconsequential point.

So a little over a month after Obama allegedly cried racism, senior McCain advisor Carly Fiorina said that Obama attempting to "belittle" Palin's experience amounted to sexist treatment of the candidate. This is where my issue is: when there are legitimate issues of sexism going on (Biden calling Palin good looking in a self-deprecating joke can be seen as sexist), why attack those who are talking about Palin's experience - a gender-neutral issue? Obama got his in terms of being attacked for lacking experience and did not pull the race card because of questions of his experience, why are the standards different for Governor Palin?

In a society where sexism still exists - women make about 80 cents to every man's dollar - to use it as a shield to block legitimate questions of experience and other gender-neutral, political characteristics is wrong. As Maureen Dowd points out in her Times column this week, instead of fighting sexism, "When you use sexism as an across-the-board shield for any legitimate question, you only hurt women."
Now let's get into some reasons as to why Palin's experience is being called into question. One: Obama went through this early on in the campaign, so it's only fair that a candidate who has never served in Washington gets the same media scrutiny. Her main argument is that she has executive experience, which Obama does not. Her executive experience is being mayor of a town of, for argument's sake, about 8,000 people. The entire population of Alaska, of which Palin is governor, is 670,053. There are only three states that are smaller than Alaska (in order from highest to lowest population: North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming). Under this logic, any mayor of a town of more than 670,053 is experienced enough to be president. There are 19 cities in America with populations higher than the entire state of Alaska. They are, in descending order, New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philly, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Fran, Columbus, Austin, Fort Worth, Memphis, and Charlotte.

So with this line of thinking, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has enough experience to be President of the United States. I'm not saying that Palin is as fucked up as Kilpatrick, I am merely pointing out that they both hold the experience credentials to be President of the United States. To make another comparison, the borough president of every New York City borough except Staten Island has the experience, again using the McCain campaign's definition, to be president. Can you even name any of them? (They are, by the way, Scott Stringer for Manhattan, Marty Markowitz for BK, Adolfo Carrion, Jr. for the Boogie Down, Helen Marshall for Queens, and James Molinaro for Staten Island). Can you imagine Marty Markowitz having the experience to lead this nation?

So while Palin and the Republicans tout her executive experience and hide behind the accusation of sexism from those who question her credentials, the reality of the situation gets lost somewhere in, as a former professor of mine calls, the media echo chamber. As passions flare up over true sexism and fake sexism and political rhetoric is passed around like the gravy at a Thanksgiving dinner, the truth is ignored like your aunt's shitty cranberry jam that nobody touches year after year but that she continues to insist on making and bringing. To question Palin's experience and credentials as a politician (and not as a mom or a woman) is not sexist. Just the opposite, for if we were to go easy on her because she is a woman that would be as sexist as hell. Peace.

Photos - McCain and Palin (Rocky Mountain News), The McCain and Palin families (Washington Post), Palin and her catch (LA Times)

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