Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.
The Sarah Palin nomination is so ludicrous it’s hard to grasp. People are still trying to get a handle on what it means, and what the relevant aspects of her tissue-thin background are. There’s been a lot of good commentary so far, including her relatively minor political experience, all of it in (literally) bush-league environs, and the obvious pandering – to pro-Hillary defectors and religious-right goons – that constitutes the only justification for her nomination. There is also her utter lack of background or preparation for assuming the Presidency without warning – as is her most important, and almost sole, Constitutional responsibility. And there is her apparent penchant for using her office and state agencies for personal vendettas. No doubt all of this will get more thoroughly aired, as it should. (My only fear is that McCain will come to his senses before the official nomination and force her to “reluctantly withdraw” to “spend more time with her family” – I want her on the GOP ticket!)
But there has been some other stuff entering into the discussion that I think is very ugly and ill-advised. Of course there have been some idiotic sexist remarks (and some equally idiotic attempted defenses of her “women’s work” as a qualification for President that are just as sexist in their condescension); that’s bad enough. And it’s hard to know just how to evaluate her “life story”, since much of her qualification for office – according to those who support her – is that she hunts moose and has a passle of kids. If they really think those are qualifications*, then it’s fair game to point out that they are not.
But there are other personal issues that are not fair game.
I hardly like to even bring the subject up, but it should be confronted. There are all kinds of weird rumors going around about Palin and her kids. Many people have suggested that her last child, born when Palin was 44 years old and not known to have been pregnant at the time, was actually the child of Palin’s oldest teenage daughter, who had dropped out of school claiming illness for over 6 months leading up to the birth. In addition, that child was born with Down Syndrome, and
some other clown is now posting suggesting that that condition was the result of Sarah Palin’s behavior during the pregnancy. Alan Colmes has suggested Palin could have endangered the fetus by traveling more than 9 hours to a rural Alaskan hospital, rather than go to any of the many larger and closer hospitals, while supposedly in labor. (Note that the two rumors conflict with one another.)
Aside from this being a highly personal issue (and, if the rumor about the teenage mother is true, then apparently something the family does not want to acknowledge), it’s hard to see what legitimate relevance it has. Once, this would have been a career-killing scandal; thankfully, as the result of progressive social activism and the victories for women’s reproductive freedom that Palin herself opposes, there are now many options for forming families, and one’s personal choices in that regard are granted much more respect. Ironically, it is only Palin’s own base that would find anything scandalous in this. But it can certainly be used to create discomfort for the candidate and her family, and, again, among all the irrelevant lightweight issues Palin brings to the campaign, this seems to bear no relation to the question of her fitness for office.
To deliberately pick on an uncomfortable and private issue for the purpose of embarrassing or harassing a candidate is despicable. And to use women’s reproductive choices as weapons against them only involves us in the worst abuses of the right wing. This is absolutely the sort of thing we – decent progressives who support women’s freedom to choose their reproductive pathway – must not be doing. Yet highly-visible blogs like DailyKos and Andrew Sullivan (not a defender of choice, it’s true) are pushing the issue, and others are spreading it with their concern-trolling.**
There is perhaps one argument that makes the issue sound relevant, and that is the question of hypocrisy. The religious right and the GOP are on hair-trigger to judge other people’s lifestyles, family structures, and reproductive choices, so when one of them finds themselves enmeshed in a “non-traditional family” saga, perhaps we are entitled to some schadenfreude? And perhaps we are, but the only decent response is to welcome that family to the community of freedom of choice and freedom from condemnation. Palin, as far as I know, has not been one of the overt persecutors of others in that respect, and does not deserve to be persecuted in return.
Lee Stranahan, of the Huffington Post, offers this odd defense:
The whole story is based on an insulting view of fundamentalist Christians; that they’d be so freaked out by a teenage pregnancy that they’d have the Governor — the most highly visible and public women in the small fishbowl of Alaska — fake a pregnancy to cover up the sins her of daughter Bristol.
Actually, I find that perfectly possible to believe. But it’s just as much none of our business as it is none of theirs. We’ve got to stop making political fodder out of people’s health and reproduction, out of their attempts to just live their lives as best they can by their own lights, without interfering with anyone else. I have little hope that this story – whatever is behind it – will have any such effect on the GOP; in fact I have little hope that it will even encourage Sarah Palin to think that women who make different reproductive choices from hers might deserve the kind of privacy and respect that she wants for herself. But if we’re going to see a future in which people have the freedom and security to live their own lives and make their own choices, we have to let everyone do so, even those who oppose that freedom for others. We can’t let ourselves be the thing we oppose and expect anything good to come of it.
Update: Palin herself has just announced that the rumors her 17-year-old daughter had the baby (Trig) in May are false, because . . . the daughter is pregnant now.
ST. PAUL (Reuters) – The 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said on Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.
That would seem to lay the other rumor to rest. It also explains why the daughter was seen wearing an engagement ring – she’s marrying the father of her expected baby (yes, 17 years old, with a baby and a husband, neither of which she planned for). Palin has requested privacy for her family over that issue, and again it seems to me they ought to have it. This does raise the tantalizing question of how her insane fundie supporters are going to react, but I think we know the answer to that already: they would be screaming and howling at any Democrat who made the same announcement, but nothing matters if you’re a Republican, so it’ll be just fine.
* I’m highly suspicious that any of her supporters actually believe she is qualified for this office, or that they really mean the things they say in claiming so.
** I hope that’s not what I’m doing here, also. That’s not my intent, at least.
[Crossposted from my group political blog, Lean Left.]
Update: Revised description of one of the rumors; my original explanation was wrong.
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