There seem to be two schools of thought concerning Palin: fear that she's going to be damaging to the Democrats, and WTF!!! I'm definitely more in the latter category, at least from a political standpoint. I'm always so ambivalent when a woman with whom I disagree deeply and profoundly on major issues achieves great success, because if female solidarity really did outweigh other considerations, then Hillary Clinton would have locked up the Democratic nomination early on and we'd be having very different discussions right now. But it doesn't -- certainly not within nations or political parties.
I don't think Palin will be hurt Obama's chances at election for several reasons. The biggest is that I don't think she'll draw in significant crossover voting for McCain. Women aren't stupid; the ones who strongly disagreed with Obama's politics or who were only supporting the Democrats because of Hillary Clinton were already looking for reasons to vote for McCain. They could have rationalized a VP candidate like Joe Lieberman, who's pro-choice, or Mitt Romney, who has a moderate voting record despite recent suck-ups to the far right, or any of the hawks who like to claim Obama will be weak on foreign policy. The women who'll jump parties for Palin were already looking to jump, and the ones who've paid any attention to Obama's voting record on women's issues won't bond together in significant numbers for Palin; after all, they didn't for Clinton.
I'm alternately amused and appalled that after all his "not ready to lead" ads, McCain picked someone with so much less experience than Obama. Moderates who inclined toward Clinton because she had so much more experience and exposure than Obama are not going to look at Palin's record and come away feeling good, particularly on a ticket with someone McCain's age -- call me ageist if you wish, but McCain's already sounding as senile as Reagan at times, and the choice of VP matters increasingly with the likelihood that he or she will need to take over the presidency. If the Republicans continue to harp on Obama's "inexperience," they're going to look ridiculous. And I Biden's blandness as a speaker is going to help him in debates with Palin; instead of attacking or condescending and being accused of sexism, he can merely state the facts of his career in his usual egghead fashion and look vastly more qualified than she is.
I'm expecting not to be happy with the media coverage of Palin and I'm nervous about how the Democrats will deal with her; given how much sexist garbage was thrown at the more qualified Clinton, who didn't get saddled with the Mommy baggage because Chelsea's an adult now, I'm assuming that I'm going to have to grit my teeth through a lot of proclamations about women's obligations and emotions and all the usual misogyny. That said, I think it will work to Obama's benefit in two ways. He can solidify his appeal to women by condemning it. And the virulent anti-Hillary Republicans don't want a woman president, period. How much flat-out sexism have we heard from those heartland church-going working class people whom we've been told are the key to this election? They're not going to be any more enthusiastic about a Republican woman than a Democrat. They'll accuse McCain of pandering to feminists by not picking an old white guy the same way they make accusations of pandering to feminists when a woman who's completely qualified for a job gets it. I expect a lot of those people will stay home and sit out the election, which helps Obama.
I'm less afraid of Palin than I was of Lieberman or Romney. I don't think she helps McCain with a major demographic. He already had the pro-life vote. He already had the gun lobby. I don't see Hispanics abandoning Obama for a candidate from a state that's more than 80% white and less than 5% Hispanic, a state that has passed English-only laws that had to be struck down by the Supreme Court. Palin's Native American husband is not going to sway the vote of someone like Cecilia Fire Thunder of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, who believes that anti-choice legislation violates Indian tribal sovereignty laws.
And Palin's choice to have a child with Down's Syndrome is not going to convince pro-choice women to admire her. Make no mistake, it was a choice -- she said in interviews that she and her husband researched the condition when they learned about it from prenatal testing -- and it's a choice that she now feels qualified to make for every woman in the U.S., regardless of the circumstances or condition of her pregnancy. As unfair as it may be to women, there's still a strong perception that the mother is or should be the primary caretaker of young children, though it's not limited to women; there were plenty of people who expressed reservations about John Edwards possibly becoming a single father as president when it was learned that his wife had untreatable cancer.
It would be hard enough to persuade a lot of older voters to pick a woman president who had two children under ten even without having a special needs child. Since Palin does have a special needs child, I think a lot of voters will assume there's no good way for her to balance the needs of the family and the needs of the country. Which is unfair to her and to all women, but since she supports anti-choice laws that will affect the lives of millions of other women, forcing them to have children they don't want without anything like Palin's support system to assist them, I can't really work up much sympathy.
So I'm actually relieved, even though I'm expecting to hear lots of depressing sexism as many Democrats and a subsection of unhappy Republicans start cutting Palin down. I don't think she's the best person for the job, and I don't think American women are stupid enough to support McCain just because he put her on his ticket.