Gail Collins is offended. Just when Hillary Clinton succeeded in convincing the nation that she is merely incidentally a woman candidate, she writes, Sarah Palin comes and undermine all her good work. She ends her column, Baked Alaska, thus:
If she’s only on the ticket to try to get disaffected Clinton supporters to cross over, it’s a bad choice. Joe Biden may already be practicing his drop-dead line for the vice-presidential debate: “I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Hillary Clinton.”
She is right about that. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin has not used her husband as a step ladder, nor has she become governor as a reward for being one of the boys nor for putting up graciously with public and private humiliation. The opposite is true. Palin made her mark by taking on the “old boy network.” Palin, unlike Clinton, is undamaged. She did not have to put up with “wits” such as Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr who reported a dinner conversation he had with her in a November 2, 1998 entry:
Hillary is a woman of incisive intelligence, formidable articulateness, impressive coolness and great charm; also very easy to talk to. I observed that Howell Raines, the editor of the editorial page of the New York Times, was almost obsessed with the Starr prosecution as Starr himself and wondered why it should be so. Was there some obscure southern grudge at work? Se said, “I think it may be a class thing. . . .”I made the point that the liberals had stood by Clinton while the DLC people had deserted him and described the miserable (Joe) Liberman as a “sanctimonious prick.” Hillary said, “Well, he is certainly sanctimonious,” But showed no eagerness to pursue this line of thought.
Surprise, surprise. Clearly, this good old boy historian thought she would have no objection to his using her public humiliation to forward his political agenda. Unfortunately, it was such forbearance that secured her election as the senator of New York State. Nor has she changed her behavior in the Senate and her “going along” policy soon earned her the “respect” of her colleagues.
Ironically, the same Clinton ladder that made her a viable presidential candidate, also led to her defeat. Enough super delegates were unwilling to countenance an idle Bill Clinton in the White House to deny her the nomination as president even once voters started to demonstrate clear signs of Obama buyers remorse. This is one of the reasons which led Barack Obama to conclude that he could diss Hillary with impunity.
Women, he was sure, will understand. After all, Hillary has demonstrated that she can be trusted to stand by men regardless and women have demonstrated that putting a woman in the White House is not important to them. Had it been, they would have voted for her in percentages similar to those Blacks voted for him.
Anyone comparing Kennedy’s endorsement of Carter to that of the Clinton’s endorsement of Obama, cannot but conclude that, ultimately, he was right. Indeed, there is only one way Democratic women can prove that their vote should not be taken so lightly, is by rewarding McCain for giving them a chance to express their indignation.
Mondale’s 1984 defeat proved that putting a woman on the Democratic ticket does not help secure votes. It took 24 years for a Republican candidate to give it another try. If Palin fails to increase significantly the percentage of women voting for McCain, the notion of woman’s vote, unlike the notion of Black vote, will die a natural death and none of the ideological ifs and buts will save it for decades. This may not upset those who believe that individual merit should be the single qualifier but it should upset feminists who are enthusiastic advocates of group rights.
No, Palin is not a step backwards. She was was chosen for the same reasons other vice presidential candidates were chosen. She is articulate, wonderful on television, has a great personal story, a record as a reformer, a special appeal to a restive party base as well as to important constituencies, hopefully including women.
And no, she is no Hillary. Thank God. Sarah Palin has proved that we have come a long way and going along with the good old boys is no longer a prerequisite for female success.
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