Sarah Palin did as credible a job as any man who ever gave an acceptance speech at a national political convention. So, there! For all those who were breathlessly awaiting some pratfall by the “woman candidate” — too bad! She did what she came to do. She was fierce, funny, fearless, feisty and, for her admirers, just fabulous. (Photo above from the Boston Globe.)
I suspect that had the Republican vice presidential nominee turned out to be Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty instead of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, we would not have seen nearly as much hype in spite of the fact that Pawlenty is just about as unknown on the national scene as Palin. “That woman” is the new American Idol in the gender politics game. Gender, like race, counts for a lot in American politics today —- especially when those personal characteristics are being used to gain political advantage.
Now, can we get back to the real issues? Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle have a real obligation to the voters to cut it out — cut it out on these petty, insidious personal attacks. Political conventions have become ugly mud-slinging contests, with both parties trotting out doddering old attack dogs to denigrate the other side. Used to be the conventions spent days in debate over something called “the platform” and the “planks” that went into the platform — the planks being the real issues at stake for this country, the platform being the total structure of belief, ideology, policy and program on which the party’s candidates would stand for election.
Today, however, the platform has given way to the mirror, with speaker after speaker basking in his or her own gorgeous reflection, or holding the mirror up against the opposition to magnify some blemish. The halls of mirrors capture a kaleidoscope of images that are actually, like pieces inside the closed world of the kaleidoscope, all the same. Cheering people in funny hats, veterans bedecked with medals so they can be pointed out for whatever purpose the speaker needs, and now, babies and cute children galore. Doesn’t matter whether Democrats or Republicans, the images are largely the same.
Now, having seen all of the Palin-Biden-Obama-McCain cute kids and proud parents and adoring spouses and extended families, let’s wish them well as they return to the privacy of their homes, and let’s demand that the candidates now focus on the real issues at stake.
Our country’s platform is clear:
Where do the candidates stand on these issues? How do their positions compare, one against the other? The politics of personal identity cannot help us to asses whose administration will be more likely to give our elder parents improved health care opportunities next year, or whether the price of gas will be under control, or whether we will at long last undertake a serious national effort to improve environmental sustainability. (Convention delegates chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!” last night did not address this issue with any sophistication, but they sure did contribute to a perception of politicians being extremely cavalier about serious environmental issues.)
I’m thrilled as an American citizen to see candidates for the presidency and vice presidency in this election who have broken barriers of race and gender — hooray for them and for us! We have made history; but where is our progress? Now, let’s put away those mirrors and get down to the hard business of distinguishing the candidates based upon their real proposals for the most important issues of our time.