Saturday, August 30, 2008
In her speech in Dayton on Friday, when she was introduced by Senator McCain as his running mate, Governor Palin went out of her way to call upon women voters to help her, on their behalf, be elected Vice President. Now only 44, even if McCain were to serve a full 8 years, she’d only be 52 years old when she runs for President at the head of her own ticket.
“It was rightly noted in Denver this week,” she said, “that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”
Her objective is perfectly clear. Women need to vote for me to quash the notion that there are limits to what women can do, to the authority and power they can command. Running the country isn’t something women can and will do eventually. It’s something they are ready to do now.
It’s a point which begs the question of whether or not she, Sarah Palin personally, would be an effective President. It could be a case of “right time, wrong candidate” which I’ve made in previous postings about Barack Obama’s campaign. It’s not that we’re not ready for a black President. It’s that Barack Obama, personally, is the wrong black candidate for the job.
Here we have Governor Palin encouraging women to vote for her because she is a woman. There may be other reasons, of course, but gender has got to be high on the short list. Hilary Clinton wasn’t quite so direct, but did frequently remind prospective women voters that her nomination and election would be historic. I’m sure they got the point.
Senator Obama’s nomination and election would also be historic, but for different reasons and, I think, to a lesser extent. From slave to President is a long road, the journey down which is a matter of pride for all Americans as an affirmation of our democracy, and of the self-correcting tendencies of a free society. African Americans are, however, a significant, but relatively small minority of our country.
Women, on the other hand, are half. Their having been discriminated against for so long, in the private and public sectors of our economy, is not only also unforgivable, it has been monumentally inefficient. The unfairness of it all notwithstanding, we have deprived the economy (and government) of the full capabilities of half the population. (It’s something pure capitalism would never have done. It had to be personal.) Fortunately, while discrimination against black and female Americans still exists, it is waning fast and quickly becoming a non-issue right before our eyes. Do we owe Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton anything for proving the point? No. They are just the current beneficiaries of changes in our society which were encouraged by activists, well known and obscure, throughout our history, who forced our country to pay attention.
Unfortunately for the Obama campaign, race doesn’t have equal status in politics. He can’t, as easily, stand up and encourage black people to vote for him precisely because he is black. There’s no point, and it could be counterproductive. Black Americans are going to vote for him anyway, as they have already demonstrated in the primaries. No, what he needs to do is dare white people not to vote for him on the grounds of his race. It’s a pitch which may have worked for many of his Rally People, not to mention an adoring media in the early stages of his campaign, but it’s a more subtle, negative argument which is a much harder sell to the electorate at large than the call to arms Governor Palin is making.