Political Surprise: McCain & Palin Move Me to Tears--and Why
I cried today.
Now, that was a surprise. I've been through many kinds of political experiences. I've managed a campaign, worked on several. I've coached a candidate through tough forums and issues, including personal and professional attacks that included outright lies about her.
Yes, her. My most recent campaign battles have been to support a woman candidate. Whatever you do, I told her, do *not* let them see you sweat. Never let your voice go up in stress, never appear defensive, and honey, never cry no matter what they call you.
I've taught her and other women how to combat sexism. I've taught women and men, too, how to deal with the media and the public, without losing their composure, even under fire.
I've had to do those battles myself, for decades. I recall applying for a job after marrying and moving to a new town. Lonely, missing my journalism job back home, I was next on the wait list for a job at the local newspaper but needed something to do in my new community.
The job I applied for was way below my educational and skill levels. But I went for it anyway, just to get out of the house and start getting involved. And I figured that I could then use that job to build on in that organization--the town's Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, I could see by reviewing their offerings, was in sore need of a good public relations and outreach program.
So, after visiting to browse and pick up their offerings, like other new residents, I went home and called in to inquire about the job, I asked about any additional materials they might like to have in my application packet. Oh, the chamber director told me, I couldn't apply for this job. It was a man's job.
The job was that of an office assistant to the chamber director, basically a glorified go-fer. But he needed a man. Any man, apparently. Just not a woman. Even an over-qualified woman.
So I sent in my package. Everything was honest and up-to-date. The name? My first two initials with my last name.
They went nuts over the application. Couldn't wait to talk to this person. I cheerfully took the message from the secretary giving the date and time for Mr. A.B. Applicant's interview.
Then I showed up for that meeting. 5'2", 110 pounds, long black hair, heels, hose and a bright red dress.
Oh! exclaimed the secretary. I couldn't see Mr. So-and-So, as he had an appointment to interview a candidate for the job.
I know, I said. I'm his appointment. Thank you.
And I walked past her into his office, without waiting to be conveyed in. As his intercom buzzer went nuts, I walked up to his desk, stuck out my hand and said hello.
By the time he answered the buzzer, it was all over. He'd been snookered, and he knew it. And there I sat,comfortably, smiling, enthusiastic. Gracious.
Secretly enjoying watching him thrash. Enjoying it when the secretary ran in to apologize for having his interview schedule interrupted by "this girl"--and then turned scarlet.
I remember that. Of course, I got the job, and in six weeks had transformed it, my way, and gotten promoted. That's right--promoted in a job that I wasn't qualified to even interview for, because I'm a woman.
I remember all the times someone tried to shove me aside because I'm--not a man. I'm a woman. Not quite as good, you know--or so they've said.
I remember all the times women have been shoved aside because they're women. So when Sen. John McCain picked gutsy, independent Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, I was happy. Very, very happy.
And so I went about my day, happy. Admiring of McCain's maverick ways. Intellectually, I'd processed that information--McCain picks Palin.
Later, after getting back to my home office, I got to watch the video of McCain's introduction of Palin, and her acceptance speech.
It's great video. I clapped and cheered, tossing in a HOO-RAH here and there! Even my Welsh Corgi, Owain Glendower, got excited and woofed his approval.
Then McCain said: " I am especially proud to say, in the week we celebrate the anniversary of women's suffrage..." and to my surprise, the waterworks opened. With that one phrase and the reminder of the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920, McCain and his gutsy choice tapped into the decades of battles for a truly equal America.
Palin herself gave a gracious nod to Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, noting the "18 million cracks" Clinton had put in the glass ceiling. HOO-RAH, I said, and Owain barked. And then I cried again.
Ferraro, sadly enough for her, was teamed with a seemingly-weak Walter Mondale, going up against the popular Ronald Reagan. A gutsy lady herself, Ferraro spoke one too many truths in Clinton's campaign, and found herself nominally back on the outside.
This time, though, Palin is teamed with one of the strongest all-American candidates since the Gipper. And, she's cut from a tough Alaska wilderness fabric that slices across normal political labels and divisions. It's fair to say that she's been admired by, and sometimes hated by, Democrats and Republicans alike.
She's done it all: soccer mom, wife, public servant, and definitely not part of the "good old boy" or corporate monolith structures. Palin said "no" to the Bridge to Nowhere. She's said "no" when it was in the common good to do so.
And did anyone notice that she's a woman, you know, one of those soft" creatures? She's one of those creatures who weren't allowed to vote until 1920 in the U.S. One of those creatures who even until past the mid-part of this century weren't "allowed" to own property in their own right. The women who first went in to get home mortagages in their own names, or open their own businesses--instead of "helping" hubby--have their own stories, too.
Clinton, I'm convinced, couldn't get past Obama's race card, and the abiding belief that it's just much better to have a man at the helm than risk having a woman steering the ship of state. The Democrats couldn't even stomach the female Clinton as a vice-presidential choice. On the other hand, McCain has made it clear that he considers Palin to be a great choice for any level of leadership.
And she didn't even have to send in a resume that hid her first name.
My tears, I realized, were of remembrance, and honoring of earlier women suffragettes and feminists. The tears were also ones of joy.
They marked something wonderful: a return to a belief that things really can change, for all Americans, in a good, positive way.
No matter what your gender.
Is America really ready to put a woman in the vice-presidential chair? Is America really ready to face the idea of a woman, should it become necessary, succeeding to the office of President of the United States?
Listening to Palin's speech, and the resounding cheers and applause for her key ideas, I cried. Because once again, after having been battered many times, my heart again believes that a woman can overcome sexism, can overcome racism, can overcome all the -isms that divide us -- and that America can, and will, stand up for women as equal people.
I agree with Palin--women can shatter that glass ceiling for once and for all.
And that idea is worth some celebratory tears.