Anyone who says women don't count in this country should talk to John McCain. Just looking at the McCain-Palin banner --Palin looking youthful but serious in her dark-rimmed glasses-- sends a clear message. I agree with many of the women bloggers at BlogHer.com who say McCain's pick of Palin is a piece of seduction.
Someone on the McCain campaign must've done some serious math: women swing voters who don't wedge on choice or environmental issues, plus NRA voters, plus drillers = choice of Sarah Palin.
Now, we know data shows women don't just vote for women candidates. But a Conservative blogger friend of mine said she did think McCain picked Palin to compete with "the breath of fresh air" of the Obama campaign. The blogger continued, "[Palin is] an outsider, she's young and she's got good conservative credibility, but without the expected resume. She's pro-life... she's pro gun rights, and she's an evangelical Christian, so she picks up the Christian right, who would have been disenfranchised by a lot of McCain's early people. She's also strong on energy policy for the Republicans -- she's from an oil state, but she's open to alternative energies, which fits well with McCain's beliefs."
All sound reasonable to me. Palin's optics and her fresh (if light) resume do stand in great contrast to the aging Senator. Palin has five children, including a baby (born, according to Wikipedia, this April).
But before we get ahead of ourselves patting McCain and the GOP on the back, I want to invite readers to remember Jane Swift. Swift, a Republican, served served as Acting Governor of Massachusetts from 2001 to 2003. Her approval rating at times was in the single digits. Swift was villifed for using taxpayer resources to fly home to visit her infant twins. Massachusetts does not have a Governor's mansion, and Swift lives in North Adams, Mass., about two hours away from Boston. The Boston Globe wrote of her,
"Swift advertised her first pregnancy during her campaign for lieutenant governor and was dogged by maternal crises in office -- using a State Police helicopter to avoid Thanksgiving traffic to get home to her daughter with pneumonia, tapping State House aides as baby sitters. Swift, seeming defiant and defensive, never recovered. She was pregnant with twins when she took over as acting governor, viewed as an inexperienced successor to a third-string Republican team."
Swift made the fatal mistake of being pregnant twice in public life--and has since been a cautionary tale to many women in politics. We're not used to female politicians who mother young children. Watching the Obama's on stage at the DNC, many voters I think were even taken aback to see a young family up there, casual and with the unpredictability only young children can create.
Palin hunts moose and is a definite appeal to the driller-vote, but she's also a mother of a young child with special needs. Even though I disagree with Palin's political views, I do hope our country is ready to take such a woman seriously, wholly. After the groundbreaking Democratic National Convention this week and both Obamas' sincere pledges to further the rights of working parents, I hope we can. The GOP, too, has included the provision of more family-friendly work in their platform.
Now McCain has made reality the ultimate litmus test of all high-achieving working women: can one be taken seriously as both a mother and potential leader of the free world? This is truly new ground.