Whatever your politics, Sarah Palin is good for women. Particularly working mothers, and especially those with young children. The rousing speech by Governor Palin at the Republican National Convention was not just the stuff of great drama but a needed roar for ambitious, talented working mothers everywhere. And I know I’m not supposed to say this. I’m told I should be offended, insulted, and enraged.
As I sat in front of the TV, with my two kids tucked into their beds, I cried and hooted like a sports fan. And I was not alone. Immediately after Palin’s speech, I heard from no less than twenty fellow professional women—of all different political stripes—every one of whom rejoiced watching Palin. Perhaps this is how the older generation of women felt about Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Certainly, I am proud of Clinton and respect her accomplishments. But her campaign achievements didn’t resonate with me like Palin’s. I am a thirty-three-year-old, married mother of two with a successful career teaching at Yale and working on Wall Street. I get how Palin takes conference calls and reads policy memos while heating up baby food and making her kids’ doctor’s appointments. And every time Palin “gave the finger” to the establishment of doubters and naysayers, I stood up and cheered. I’ve been doubted, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a registered Democrat with social positions that put me at odds with the Palin platform. For one, I’m strongly pro-choice. But that’s not the only issue that matters to me. I vehemently care about growing a resilient and open economy, instituting needed government reforms, and keeping America on firm geopolitical footing. (Her mention last night of the BTC pipeline in the Caucuses is a project dear to my professional life.) This year’s election is critical for those issues, too. And I’m not convinced the Democrats have their fiscal positions right.
I also don’t underestimate the benefit in shaking up the establishment by running a woman for Vice President and an African-American for President. Path breaking is valuable, and we win either way. In Sarah Palin’s case, even if she “fails” to reach the White House, like Hillary Clinton “failed,” she will have been successful at getting the public used to the idea of a female chief executive. What’s more important, Palin got the conservatives and Republican Party to support the idea. Who would have thought that the far right, evangelical Republicans would be fighting for a working mother to win? And so goes the absurdity of politics.
Sure, I want Sarah Palin to be more vocal about supporting women’s issues, like equal pay and better family leave, and I would rather the McCain platform was more socially liberal. Yes, Palin would benefit from more experience. Few wouldn’t. And I absolutely wish Palin was meteorically “qualified” to be on McCain’s ticket. How sweet it would have been to immediately silence the skeptics and bigots. (Even Hillary Clinton couldn’t do that.) But I don’t begrudge Palin the opportunity—to fail or succeed. Men having been doing it for a while now. And I happen to like that she’s undeniably female, took career on- and off-ramps while having children, and is independent of yet committed to her man’s man of a husband. So I’m hoping Palin demonstrates undeniable mental acuity and a fiery political gut in the upcoming days. If last night was any indication, I’d put my money on her. There’s definitely a lot riding on it.
No matter where you stand on political issues, I ask you to be grateful to Palin for catapulting forward the dialogue on women, motherhood, and level playing fields. This week alone our country has advanced (fitfully) in its understanding of and willingness to support working mothers. That picture of Sarah Palin at the end of her speech, surrounded by her kids and holding her baby boy, was transformative. Indeed, hopeful. I am indebted to her and McCain for that. No matter who I vote for. No matter the outcome in November.
Go, Sarah, go. And if you get to the White House, make us proud.
By Allison Kingsley for Damsels in Success