Editor's Note: This is a joint mother/daughter blog: Faye Wattleton is an AC360° contributor and President of the Center for the Advancement of Women; Felicia Gordon is Faye's daughter.
Too perfect to be dismissed
Faye Wattleton | Bio
President, Center for the Advancement of Women
The 30-year campaign by occupants in the White House, a re-structured Federal judiciary and Congressional hostility has eroded women’s fundamental Constitutional protections, most notably Roe v. Wade. After the 1976 presidential campaign, the take-over of the Republican Party by a confluence of unlikely partners, known as the religious right, led to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and delivery of two future presidencies. Recently, analysts have pronounced this constituency to be in a state of disarray, if not all but dead; it seems that all it needed was a jump-start in a candidate who stirred the passions for their “100-year war” against affirmative action, equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights and gay rights, and for abstinence-only sexuality education.
Last year, the 5-4 Court, in Gonzalez v. Carhart, disregarded a woman’s health in allowing prohibition of a type of abortion procedure in the second trimester, which may be the best option to preserving a woman’s future fertility. In another decision, the Court ruled that Lilly Ledbetter, the only female supervisor at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant, could not seek justice, under Title VII, for 19 years of discrimination. In Long Island Home Care v. Coke, home care workers, 90 percent of whom are women, were declared unworthy of minimum wages and overtime compensation.
Shrewdly, John McCain has offered a gift too perfect to be dismissed: a poster child for the issues that religious conservatives hold dear. The announcement of Gov. Sarah Palin’s selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee, a long-term member of the Assembly of God Church, swept Sen. Barack Obama from the headlines, less than 24 hours after the fireworks faded into the Rocky Mountain skies. Some concluded that it was a bold grab for disaffected supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Down in Colorado Springs. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said it best, “… Sarah Palin is God’s answer.” History tells us it’s hard to counter the power of the revisionist religious pulpit, which will be politically active from now until Election Day, in support of the McCain-Palin ticket. There will be some women who don’t care to be called feminist, who will cross-over.
A larger prize was at stake; one that has been reliably successful in election after election.
The Sarah Palin Show
Since the election’s focus has taken an unexpected turn to children, I thought it a perfect opportunity to invade my mom’s blog and offer my own two cents.
Soon after Gov. Sarah Palin came on the scene, I knew that her nomination was not about capturing disenchanted “Hillary” supporters. I knew it because, almost as quickly as I knew her name, my favorite celebrity gossip blogs had begun to post pictures and dirt that rivaled any popular celebrity in entertainment value. I have no doubt that the McCain campaign knows what Britney Spears and TV networks have known for a long time: Americans relish the comfort afforded by viewing the train wreckage of those whom we are supposed to idolize – the more beautiful, the more powerful, the better. When Sen. John McCain commented that his campaign had thoroughly vetted the former beauty queen’s past and that he was “grateful” for the results, he meant just that.
You don’t know who Heidi Montag is? Sen. McCain does. When told of reality TV’s reigning ice queen’s endorsement, he responded, “I’m honored to have Heidi’s support, and I want to assure her that I never miss an episode of ‘The Hills,’ especially since the new season started.”
Call it “low brow,” call it cynical, call it what you want: Americans are just as fascinated by the Sarah Palin show as they have been by the Britney Spears show for years now. As Lynn Spears gets ready to release her book, “Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World,” in which she purportedly discusses her daughter’s sexual promiscuity at 14, that daughter drew millions of viewers to the same music awards show on which she humiliated herself just one year prior. As rumors of an alleged Palin extramarital affair swirled on the Internet, her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention attracted over 40 million viewers, eight million more than that of democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama. Just as Americans digested the Enquirer’s latest report that Jamie Lynn Spears’ baby’s father never plans to marry her, they scoured the internet for Gov. Palin’s future son-in-law’s Myspace page declaration that he’s “a f—kin’ redneck” and the YouTube video of a young black man threatening legal action if the Palin family does no allow him to raise Bristol Palin’s baby whom he claims to have fathered.
Whether fascination with the first reality show starring a vice presidential candidate will translate into votes for the Republican Party is still up for debate. Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin may make us feel temporarily entertained and comforted with respect to our own families’ issues, but the reality is that having a child as an unwed teenager is hardly ideal. Statistics show that teen mothers are more likely to deliver prematurely and to have low birth weight babies; more than 75 percent of unwed teenage mothers are on welfare within five years of the birth of their first child; only about one teenage mother in four ever completes high school; the sons of teenage mothers are 13 percent more likely to end up in prison; and the daughters of teen mothers are 22 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
While I think the Republican Party’s vice presidential nomination is brilliant in many respects, I still believe that we should aim for more than the comfort engendered by the shortcomings of those in the spotlight. We should be awed and inspired by our country’s leaders. We should want the president and the vice president of the United States to be better than us because we should want better for ourselves. We should hope that the only reality we want to see them produce is a better version than our own.