The speculation has been endless about whether or not Sarah Palin will enter the race. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has also shown signs of throwing her toque in the ring. Bachmann has said that her phone has been ringing off the hook with those wanting her to enter the race, and CNN reports that it is looking increasingly likely that she will enter the race.
Palin was thought by most to have taken herself out of the running, but her recent purchase of a home in Arizona (it would be easier to run a campaign from the mainland than from Alaska), news of a movie about her governorship in Alaska (shortened though it might be, through no fault of her own. Oh, wait.) premiering in Iowa, and the announcement of a bus tour have fanned the flames of speculation once again.
In some ways, I welcome this news (more about that in a moment), but overall, I am both appalled and amused. Let me count the ways:
1) As a woman, I applaud those of my gender being involved in politics. It was a man’s world for decades, if not centuries, and the more women who get involved, the better. However, I would prefer that such candidates have a lot more substance. Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton had a boatload of gravitas; Palin and Bachmann seem to be more about sound bites and appearance than policy. They are very good at firing up their base. They are sorely lacking in the ability to reach beyond that base and deliver their message to others who need to be convinced. Frankly, I find their demeanor and lack of knowledge concerning the Constitution, policy, and various other tough questions thrown their way (things like “Which newspapers do you read?”) an embarrassment to women everywhere.
I have no problem with attractive women in the workplace or in politics. Indeed, it can sometimes be an asset, and I would be lying if I said that I felt that it hadn’t helped me in my career at some point, however, you’d better have the knowledge to back it up. I worked with some attractive women during my laboratory career, but if you didn’t have the knowledge about what you were doing or the processes that took place in the lab, you didn’t get ahead. I expect the same from any politician, whether male or female. When women have often had to work harder and be smarter in order to be taken seriously in many endeavors, I find it a setback to hear some men say, “That Palin is sure a looker, ain’t she?” You don’t get to run the country because you look good in a designer suit and high heels.
I don’t doubt Palin’s or Bachmann’s toughness (although Palin has a disturbing tendency towards vindictiveness, and she seems to have a hard time shaking off the inevitable criticism that comes with being on the national stage), because you can’t be a politician in this country without having a good measure of toughness. However, I also want a good measure of intelligence, and a willingness to work across the aisle rather than simply hammering home every agenda at the expense of the well-being of our country and our citizens.
2) As a progressive, I simply do not care for their agenda. I fundamentally disagree with most of, if not all, of their nebulous policies and their basic philosophy of less government, more local control. Such a doctrine was rejected by our founding fathers (the same founding fathers whom Palin and Bachmann seem to love so well, but understand so little about) when they rejected the Federalist papers in favor of the Constitution. The Constitution states clearly in what is known as the Supremacy Cause that federal law is the supreme law of the land. The concept of states’ rights was fought over in the Civil War, and it was rejected. I honestly do not understand this effort to let states reign supreme; if that were the case, there would still be segregation in many southern states.
Palin, Bachmann, and the teabaggers call for a return to the way things used to be, a return to American exceptionalism. They seem to be enamored of post-WWII America. To be sure, it was a time of booming prosperity, but it was also a time of discrimination against blacks and other minorities, women (unless they stayed at home, that was okay), and homosexuals. As for American exceptionalism, they seem to have missed the news that we are falling behind other developed countries when it comes to health care, infant mortality, and education. Part of the latter has much to do with the endless attack upon science education, an atmosphere where teachers are sometimes afraid to teach the scientific facts of evolution because of the blowback they get from highly religious communities. Which brings me to this.
3) Palin, Bachmann, and their acolytes seem to want nothing more than to make our country a theocracy. As someone who firmly believes in the separation of church and state (again, those pesky founding fathers and their assertions that we are not to promote any religion; another part of the Constitution that is conveniently ignored by many), I find this the most disturbing of all. One would think that the readily accessible example of various theocracies throughout the world (let’s use Iran as an example) would lead anyone to understand that basing our government upon any sort of religion is exactly what we should not and must not do. It was definitely not the intent of the writers of our Constitution. We do not base our laws upon any religious text. Both Palin and Bachmann seem to be taking their cues on whether to run or not from God, and when Palin met with Billy Graham she asked him about what the Bible says concerning Israel, Iraq, and Iran. If you want to base your foreign policy on what the Bible says about the End Times, the Rapture, and Armageddon, kindly step slowly away from my government.
4) Finally, as someone who is highly interested in politics and also loves to laugh, I think it would be very entertaining to have these two enter the race. The debates will be hilarious, and will provide plenty of comedy fodder. I suspect, however, that it will not be any sort of a boon to a Republican party that wishes to be taken seriously. For all the talk of Paul Ryan’s “serious and daring budget” (ignore that Medicare part, okay?), I find it a downright knee slapper that the possibility exists that we will see the Dimmer Twins soon engaged in battle. I await such a development eagerly, and I’m sure my fellow progressives do, as well.