How the Palin nomination eclipses conservatism—let us count the ways

Carol Iannone writes:

While I generally like Michelle Malkin’s work very much, the video made by her and others (discussed here) disingenuously attacks a straw man, since Sarah Palin’s critics are obviously not saying that women shouldn’t be in politics at all. Rather they are questioning whether being the mother of such a large young family with special issues is compatible with holding the top job. And it is such critics who are the real target of the video.

Further, most of our recent presidents have had small families and/or families already grown, and they were men, often with full-time wives. Truman had one adult child, Eisenhower one adult child, Kennedy had two small children, Johnson had two grown daughters, Nixon had two grown daughters, Ford had five children but they were mostly grown, Carter had a large family but also grown with only one still in the nest, Reagan had four adult children, Bush 41 the same—large family but grown, Clinton had one child, Bush 43 had two daughters of college age.

But now a woman offers herself as prospective veep, and potentially prez, with five kids, three of them under age 13, one an infant with special needs, one a pregnant unmarried teenager, and we are not even allowed to question the potential difficulties.

Although Palin is an attractive candidate and holds some conservative positions, there are several ways in which this nomination indicates the eclipse of conservatism:

  • Conservatism has been weakened because conservatives have surrendered their own concerns and principles to support her, when everyone knows they would have been making the exact opposite arguments were she a Democrat. This also tells us what a McCain presidency portends for conservatism.

  • Feminists may be annoyed, but feminism has triumphed, as we see in the fury aimed by conservatives at anyone who wonders about the compatibility of a large young family with being potentially president of the U.S. “You wouldn’t say that about a man” is now the refrain, and the absolute sameness of men and women is now the standard, so conservatives’ ability to deploy any of their previous arguments about differences between the sexes has been seriously blunted. Of course there actually is a great deal of scientific evidence for differences between the sexes, but if it couldn’t even be mentioned in this instance, why should it be mentioned in any other? Maybe it should be up to society to make these differences not matter. Conservatives have now shown themselves capable of the kind of feminist tyranny that brought down Lawrence Summers—ready, willing and able to cry “sexism” when they find it useful to do so.

  • Group consciousness—identity politics—has triumphed over individualism. The choice of Palin as a woman, and a woman with less experience than would have been required of a man, the excitement over her as a woman, the fact that she is attracting women voters, even Hillary supporters with opposite views, and with all this happening with enthusiastic conservative support, means that sheer, unmitigated group chauvinism and diversity have emerged victorious in American electoral politics. Her glass ceiling remark also validates the liberal view of America as a place that has kept women down, and helps to get votes by rousing women to feel that her election would mean long-overdue fulfillment for them.

  • The bar has been raised for all women. Women wishing to be full-time mothers or to work part-time (which seems to be the preferred thing—only small percentages of mothers say mothers with small children working full-time is good for the children) will look like sluggards. This wouldn’t have happened if a reasonable debate had been permitted, but with the conservatives’ new cry, “HOW DARE YOU,” a new standard has been put in place. It also wouldn’t have happened had Palin’s own situation been presented as unique, not typical, as though she were simply combining career and family like millions of other women today.

  • Unwed teenaged pregnancy has now been legitimized as something that just “happens,” the way “life happens.” It’s very common. Families all over the country are dealing with it. All over the world for that matter. It’s no big deal. The edge has been taken off any concern about it. Teen motherhood is good too. Parents who look upon it more severely will have no support; they’d better get with the program of being easy and accepting. And, come to think of it, why shouldn’t they? Time was when something like this happened, parents might hold themselves accountable. Now they can just shrug it off as part of not being “perfect.”

  • The recessive and supportive male has been validated as the new American man. This has been building for some time. He is hunky and masculine and handy at home but largely irrelevant to the real work of the world. This works for the Palins and for many, but overall it is not a good model for society. At one time the Christian conservatives knew this, but they surrendered so fast on it that they have lost any trust. Once again, this might not have been an issue—Dennis Thatcher was also recessive (or rather had his own work and interests apart from his wife’s political life), Angela Merkel has a hubby in the background (and it’s worth remembering that those two women ascended to the top post with far less hysteria than we are hearing now about Palin’s simply being nominated for the second spot). Women leaders have existed throughout history without thinking that they were breaking glass ceilings or being seen as models for all women. But we are not permitted to acknowledge the uniqueness of the Palins’ position, and of her special circumstances and their fit with this particular job, and possibly come to accept it all on those special grounds. No—we are mandated to see her and her situation as exemplary of the progress of all women everywhere and of the breaking of the molds for ever after.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 10, 2008 01:48 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):