Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Whose Chance to win the White House did Sarah Palin Help the Most?

You're looking at her:
Ross Douthat had a much discussed column in yesterday's times wherein he said:

Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)

Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman.
Imagine that: there's inequality for women in the workplace. Who knew?

For as bad as what Palin has endured -- on a purely personal level -- in the last 10 months (and it has been bad), it does not hold a candle to what Hillary Clinton has had to endure for the last 17+ years. Clinton's been called an Ozark bumpkin, a Wellesley elitist and a carpetbagger. She's been slandered as a lesbian, had horrible things said about her child and been called a murderer. She's had her wardrobe critiqued endlessly. She's been accused of essentially forming castration squads around her. She was investigated for years by rich enemies. She's been the subject of hysterical conspiracy theories ranging from getting Black Panthers accused of torture off the hook in the '60s to running an elaborate drug trafficking scheme with the help of the CIA and Colombian cartels to (surprise!) Marxism. She's even had her religion called into question. To this day, everything she does is scrutinized unlike anyone else.

She's gotten hit from the right, she's gotten hit from the left. She's been responsible for her own stumbles too ... and Hillary was there at the very beginning of what is generally been considered the most divisive period in recent American political memory.

But she never quit.

Even when she should have, Clinton didn't stop fighting. Last spring her run for President was essentially over after the Wisconsin primary. But she kept on going. Part of this was in the odd chance that she might catch a break (and she almost did -- the Rev. Wright highlight reel didn't start making it's round the clock debut until weeks later). But even that didn't justify running her campaign into debt to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. I didn't appreciate it at the time -- in fact, like many other people, I just wanted her to throw in the towel -- but the last week has demonstrated just how important it is to finish the race ... even when you know you're licked. Chances are a lot of people will re-evaluate Hillary in the future too.

If last weekend's events helped anyone's run for the Presidency, it was Hillary Clinton. In the future Sarah Palin will always be measured along side Hillary Clinton, if for no other reason than they were "the two women in the great race for the White House of 2008." But they were also the "First Women" of their respective parties, the first women to hold the kind of influence and power among their peers as any of the good old boys, and historians now have parallel lives through which to examine each other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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