Hello Sarah, My Old Friend

I was really hoping that I would not have to whip out the ‘2012 election’ tag this early, but, alas, the best laid plans…despite the fact that the election is over two years away, the tag is coming out, and you will be seeing it more in the coming weeks, months, and years. Because this is evidently how election cycles work in this country now. You finish an election, swear people into office, and then get started on their replacements.

This country is in a bit of political turmoil at the moment and there’s a lot of media attention being dedicated to the activities of the Republicans as they cynically jostle for position while the country falls down around our ears. They, of course, are blaming President Obama for Everything That Is Wrong With America, as though one man who took office barely two years ago could possibly be responsible for that is obviously the result of systemic problems that existed long before he was even running for office.

And the Republicans are really busting out the cynicism when it comes to female candidates. I was aghast when Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, and I continue to be aghast at the way that the conservative movement is using women. And the way the media is eating it up, talking about it like it’s the ‘rise of women in politics’ when it is anything but.

As Tasha Fierce pointed out after the 8 June primary:

Of course, when you’re the Republican Party, the political party with the worst record on inclusiveness, diversity and tolerance, you’re going to toot your own truck horn when something like this happens. Especially when the establishment Republicans didn’t even support the women when they were running the primaries, therefore taking no risks and now reaping a huge reward. Now they can trot out their panoply of female candidates as evidence of their newfound diversity.

The sheer cynicism and gall of the Republicans never ceases to amaze me. The rise of female conservative candidates is not a ‘victory for women in politics.’ It’s a victory for conservative white women, and evidently one for the Republican party, which is now dining out on how ‘diverse’ it is despite the fact that some of the most powerful women in politics remain at least quasi-liberal; take, for example, the current Speaker of the House. Last I checked, Nancy Pelosi was a woman. Our Secretary of State, also a woman, also a Democrat. And the list goes on.

So. The stage has been set. The Republicans have decided that they’re going to use conservative women to appeal to a base, and they are going to appeal hard, because one may as well go big or go home. Who else but the rising star of the Republican Party are you going to use to spearhead that movement?

Hello again, Sarah.

Already, speculation is rife about whether or not Palin is planning a 2012 campaign. The question here for me is not if, at all. The question is when it’s going to be announced, and how far she’s going to make it through the primaries. Sarah is already building up a war chest, a sure sign of plans to be spending a lot of money, and let’s not forget that Presidential bids are extremely expensive, which is why people who run for President tend to be older and tend to be wealthy, and until very recently tended to be primarily white. You need not just pots and pots of money, more money than I can even begin to imagine, but the support of a vocal and highly mobilised base, and the support of corporations to pay your way.

All of which Sarah appears to have going for her. So, no, it’s not ‘if,’ folks, it’s ‘when.’ She’s going through the motions. She’s released a book, she’s touring, she’s speaking, she’s looking politely at factories, she’s appearing on television. She is keeping herself in the public eye, she is using rhetoric pretty skillfully, and she’s pushing hard to stay in the public consciousness, to position herself as a paragon of American Values, and, of course, she’s making sure that people know she is the embodiment of virtuous conservatism, because she intends to ride the backlash all the way to the White House if she can swing it. She likes being polarising because she knows that gets her in the public eye.

Acting like a Palin campaign in 2012 is a thing of doubt is a disservice. We can skip the debate over whether it is going to happen and start focusing on how to counter it, how to combat it, how to address the inevitable rhetoric that is going to arise. How to respond to people who claim that feminists and other people interested in women’s rights can’t possibly oppose a female candidate, because obviously the only important thing about a candidate is that candidate’s gender identity.

There’s also going to be sexism. Oh, is there going to be sexism. And, since we don’t live in a dichotomous world, no matter how much people want to pretend, that means that we need to find a way to combat the sexism while also making it clear that we don’t support the candidate. To express our distaste for Palin in ways that do not feed into the sexism. That means no more Caribou Barbie, liberals, and yes I am looking at you.

Promoting the rights of women doesn’t mean that we accept everything that women do. It can’t, because ‘women’ are a diverse group and they have very different ideas, priorities, and beliefs. It’s impossible for one person to speak on behalf of 50% of the population and that means that it is completely ridiculous to act like all women should be equally supported in all endeavors. When those endeavors involve working against the interests of social justice, I am not going to support them. And I am certainly not going to support a candidate who has eagerly expressed interest in oppressing women, no matter what that candidate’s gender (or nongender) may be.

Ready or not, here it comes, folks: Palin 2012. The question is: What are you going to do about it?