I've had two big realizations this cycle, and both have to do with gender and the progressive movement. The first happened during the Obama/Clinton primary, when a good number of both male and (to a lesser extent) female Obama supporters referred to Clinton as a bitch and just generally exposed themselves as misogynistic assholes. I was surprised at the level of vitriole towards her, expressed in such charming statements as 'It's not that she's a woman, I just can't stand her voice.' Subsequently I saw this sentiment ding a lot of great progressive female candidates who were not Hillary Clinton. It should be obvious at this point that there is no substantial difference between Clinton and Obama on an ideological level. In Obama's recent interview with Bill O'Reilly (oh yeah, he did one of those), the very first question was 'Do you believe there's a war on terror', to which Obama pliantly and politely cried out 'Absolutely'.
So that was part one of a disillusioning experience towards the progressive space. But the reaction to Sarah Palin has been another education. I watched the speech with my girlfriend, who heard from all her friends that it was terrible. I actually read a lot of the commentary before I read the speech, so I expected a blood and guts partisan red meat angry tirade. And I saw one, only it was Giuliani up there relishing a quasi-fascist rally of organized hatred towards liberals.
When Palin came on, I saw an incredibly charming and hilarious performer, who expressed a secure sense of mockery towards Democratic leaders and a down home sense of self. She's obviously an alpha girl in the mean girl high school sense, but she's also extraordinarily bright and grounded in a conservative view of the world. She's tough and accomplished and that can't be denied. What her accomplishments are should be debated, since much of them involves high oil prices, corruption, and a white Christian dominionist view of the world (as Bruce Wilson makes clear). But that she is a powerful political figure who has appeal can't be denied.
And yet that's what I saw among many progressives who told me how awful Palin is and how she isn't taking care of her family or any such crap. I felt like I was among insiders during Stephen Colbert's white house correspondent's dinner, insiders that insisted he wasn't funny because they were the butt of his jokes and they couldn't see it.
She was great. And she's a strong politician we must take seriously, or else she's going to be our President. And frankly, it's about time we have a strong woman in high office. I would just hope it's not a female Nixon.