Must Reads

January 3, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Elizabeth Wurtzel asks When is it Sexism? In Sarah Palin’s case, it was (sorta).  In Caroline Kennedy’s case, it isn’t.  Here’s the difference.

Wurtzel argues Palin was not given enough credit for juggling both motherhood and the governorship.  “After a couple of days of maternity leave when her special-needs baby was born last year, she was back in Anchorage, running Alaska.”  In her view, Palin’s political endeavor in 2008 is now unfairly eulogized as “Wadrobegate”.

But I disagree with Wurtzel that the sexism leveled against Palin boils down to too many swipes on the Amex card.  Or that she wasn’t given enough credit by voters or the media. In fact, I think she was given too much credit and the sexism helped.  Let’s remember she was a media phenomenon for about 2 months after becoming McCain’s sidekick in late August.  After the announcement, McCain enjoyed a huge surge in the polls, especially among women, and free media on what seemed any and every news outlet.  According to one Fox producer friend of mine, the leggy and sassy VP candidate was “ratings gold.”  According to him, any segment that did not feature Palin immediately dipped in the Nielson numbers.  Palin was also fund raising gold, boosting McCain’s warchest to an all time high.  And for a few days, the Obama camp was in rapid response paralysis, unsure of how to politically maneuver around another woman on the campaign trail.  The public did take pause after the Couric interviews, but Palin rallied after her vice-presidential debate performance.  Post play-by-play debate analysis was heavily in Palin’s court, with media elites heaping praise on Palin, when in fact Biden, in the traditional sense, won the debate handily.  I railed against this–rather heatedly– back in October.

It was only after McCain’s political suicide on the morning of September 15, when he stated firmly that “fundamentals of our economy are strong” after the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 300 points, that the Republican’s campaign came to a screeching halt.  Palin’s star power could never revive the McCain campaign after a verbal catestrophe of that scale.  But it was the sexism Palin faced on the campaign trail that buoyed the notoriously unorganized McCain campaign for as long as it did–in the form of free media, $ and poll #s.  For Palin, sexism worked more in her (and John McCain’s) favor than it did against her.  And most election post-mortem analysis fails to give her credit for, at times, single-handidly keeping a disastrous campaign afloat.


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  1. When sexism works for a woman, it’s called tokenism. Sad.

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