The conservative female scapegoat

BlogHer Original Post

By the time dusk fell on the evening of November 4th, the GOP party
looked at their Reaganite ideal of a "shining city on a hill" now dust
under their feet. History was made, in more ways than one.

West coast results still flitted across television screens, for
those Americans who hadn't called it a night by 10pm central, and
pundits began commentating on the grumblings from within the GOP,
specifically McCain aides: that Sarah Palin had cost John McCain the
election. After being attacked because she was a mother, because she
was a woman, after her clothing expenditures were attacked (while the
matching price tags on Barack Obama's clothing went ignored), after her
children were defamed, the GOP turned its suicidal barrel on her, one of the only people left in the party that the Democrats have
not finished off.

Melissa Clouthier says this of Palin's nameless, GOP attackers:

"They have decided that rather than specific failed policies (can anyone,
anywhere, to this day articulate McCain’s plans for the economy?) or
strategies (Mr. Nice Guy) or leadership (running around like a headless
chicken and suspending the campaign to participate in doomed
negotiations), the real problem was Sarah Palin. No rigorous
self-examination. Instead, they did what the least savory sorts do:
find a scapegoat."

Cowardly GOP attempts to paint her as the stereotypical dumb
hausfrau, just some silly woman, underscore the necessity for the
Republican Party to flush out the sexist, aged patriarchy from its
leadership. In doing this, they are playing up to the left's
assumptions that, because she's a conservative woman on the ticket, she's nothing but a ploy of identity politics. I don't think the GOP expected just how
integral Palin would be to this campaign. As Doctor, Wife, Mom, said:

"This is part of the reason why John McCain lost. Before he added
Sarah Palin to the ticket his support was luke warm, but after adding
her to the ticket, there was a rush of support that went in the
direction of McCain. In fact, it is likely that many Republicans cast a
vote for Sarah Palin rather than a vote for John McCain. If he had
added someone else to the ticket, I feel that his loss would have been
even more dramatic."

John McCain lost for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do
with Sarah Palin: horrible campaign management, his moderate record,
failure of his campaign to fully use the technological tools available,
poor marketing, allowing the campaign to be out-manned; despite the various admitances and studies of mainstream media slights against him, despite his
determination to stick to a sparse, publicly-financed budget, McCain
dropped the ball, conservatives, as a whole, dropped the ball by
allowing him to assume party leadership in the first place. That Palin would receive any blame is ridiculous.

Amongst the charges leveled at her from "nameless aides":

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain
adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us,
her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the
next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves,
as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

I find this so deliciously ironic. Shocking, from a campaign that
has uttered the word "maverick" so much it's lost all meaning. Yes,
Palin is the future of the Republican party; is this aide being
deliberately obtuse or is shortsightedness considered a virtue in the
McCain camp? Of course, the latter would completely explain the
election results and the litany of errors which dated their campaign. It was apparent from the get-go
that the GOP never intended Palin for use as anything other than a
means to an end; they picked one of the most successful, top-tiered
female Republicans (of which there are only about twelve) under the age of 60
(which leaves four) and marketed her according to their dusty copy of
"How to Market a Woman," circa 1950. They surrounded her with
"handlers," busy-bodied aides desperate to make names for themselves,
who viewed her as a newcomer late into the game of Team McCain. She was
barred from speaking (I was brusquely told "no deal" when I asked if Palin
would be taking questions before her debate here in St. Louis) without approval, she was criticized when she strayed from poorly-parsed talking points (thus
providing some of her better sound bites). Seriously - which aide was it
again that chastised Palin for talking to Glenn Beck? And trounced her
for setting up (and then canceling) an interview with Bill O'Reilly? But thought talking with Katie Couric was a good idea? Please.

(Who are the divas again? That's rhetorical. We know who the divas are and they have press envy.)

I love Ann Althouse's response to the above quote:

"But the one thing we know about the adviser is that he is
untrustworthy. He's stabbing Palin and McCain in the back. Why take his
word for anything?

She doesn't have a "relationship of trust" with anyone, not even
her own husband? Aw, come on, that just reads as implausible on its
face. And "diva"? She's the candidate. She should be demanding, and she should be served.

Who is this weasel, calling her a "diva"? What are his political
interests? I think they show through as he whines about Palin's future
prospects on the eve of McCain's probable loss."

And one of the comments she later quoted:

"jdeeripper said: "Diva" is a sexist, homophobic code word, a dog
whistle whose use is cynically calculated to play upon deep seated
sexual fear and patriarchal hatred."

The fact that someone within the GOP used "diva" to dismiss a female
candidate doesn't suprise me; the GOP marketed Palin the way a CEO
presents his wife: arm candy. Except that in this matchup, Palin has
more potential, she bears a higher approval rating than the man behind
whom she was forced to trail. She went to bat for McCain, she defended
him when he didn't deserve defending, she spit out the truth when he
was too afraid to, she was the Lady Lazarus to a dead campaign. A
week-and-a-half after the accusations began to fly and the best defense
McCain can give her is some half-hearted "she's great" on Jay Leno that
didn't even make the Web-cut highlight reel. She was left to defend herself.

Just by looking at how some within the GOP are trying to take her
down lends credence to the charge of sexism. For instance, trumping up
controversy on her clothing. CNN's brilliant Campbell Brown discussed
the blatantly sexist double-standard and slammed that criticism in a hard-hitting vidtorial. Palin has also addressed it in numerous interviews. I'm sure John
McCain's suits (as have Obama's) are equally big-ticket items, yet no
one questions that. Why? Because they're men. It's far more usual for
the press to focus on substance rather than fluff when the subject is a
man. I'm not being hyperbolic; it's simply the truth. The majority of
the country couldn't name a single one of Palin's accomplishments, not
for the lack of Palin having any, but because the media chose to air
incessant coverage of how she dressed, mothered (still, sigh), and if she was really pregnant when she said she was.

Palin possesses more brass than most of the men in the Republican
party combined and this scares them. It scares them because they've stuck
to their dated strategy for so long and here comes along a woman, an
honest-to-God reformer, and she turns the conservative movement on its
head, something that 16 years of forever male-dominated Republican
leadership has been unable to do. Clouthier makes a good point:

"But this one is going to bite him in the rear. Sarah Palin did
everything in her power to get John McCain elected. That the election
was even close was a testament to her connection with the voters
despite the press treatment ...

Sarah Palin continues to give her all to defend John McCain and his
candidacy. It is honorable and makes her look like a leader. It also
puts John McCain’s stubborn, self-serving silence in stark contrast.
It’s a shameful conclusion to a failed candidacy."

Some in the GOP would rather compromise their party's future by
pinning their mistakes on a true reformer rather than admit that their
years of inter-party leadership and crusty old candidates were to
blame; doing the latter would mean that they have to assume some sort
of personal responsibility. That costs political capital. It also begs
the question of whom the party is serving, America, or themselves? As I
said in my Sunday night radio show this election, more so than in any
election we've had previously, women were a force, regardless of party.
This election has sparked a new movement within conservatism.
Conservative women are tired of the stereotype that they're only good
for filling pews and turning out a vote. We're tired of being
marginalized. If anything, the Republican party failed Sarah Palin, the Republican party failed US.

It took a woman to revitalize conservatism and it looks like it will take many more to rebuild the Republican party.

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