10/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ballsy Politics, Literally

I know, I know: dismissing Sarah Palin and all her baggage seems like a -- excuse-the-expression -- no-brainer. But if you think dubious distinction, low expectations and lightweight cred in a Veep candidate matters much, just remember two elected vice presidents, Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle.

We all know that Republicans play to win -- world consequences, good governing, or good vetting be damned. And what the GOP lacks in empathy and competence they certainly make up for in cojones.

And wow, I learned this literally, when my graduate-student husband was running for president of the University of Florida student body in the 1960s. He had great ideas, a sterling record, and was also the first Jewish candidate to run for that position at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was still burning crosses. The university was considered the breeding ground for the state's pols-to-be. (Indeed one of our student political allies, Bill Nelson, is currently a Senator.)

The opposition party, a conservative group led by a bunch of pre-Rovian Roves, sensed that my husband was going to win the election. Pulling down our progressive party's placards and plastering the campus with nasty letters supposedly from our party weren't enough. So at the last minute they resorted to something I will never forget: They spread a rumor that my husband had one ball.

Yes, that seems absurd, but it was ruthless and brilliant, an insidious way to mock him and make him seem effete and exotic and not like others, without their seeming to be anti-Semitic. Their (false!) claim was a symbol, a code, something to laugh at and whisper about.

And it left our student party in a quandry. How do you deal with something so outrageous, so inane, so unanswerable? My mother-in-law suggested I write a letter to the editor of the campus paper. "Dear students, I can attest that my husband has two balls." I suggested she write a letter.

The move caught us off guard, sort of like nominating a vice president who's a Creationist, gun-totin' beauty queen in the midst of an investigation, an abstinence advocate with an unwed teen daughter.

So we didn't fight back. We counted on the sensibility of the electorate to get turned off. And my qualified husband, who had been way ahead, lost the race.

Alas, after seeing so many great candidates lose to lesser ones, I have unending faith in the gullibility and shallowness of our electorate. Democrats must get ballsier - whatever the number we were born with. We must fight back constantly and swiftly throughout these final months, even against what seems to be absurd.

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