Sarah Palin, “Blood Libel” and Misunderstanding Leadership

It’s unsurprising that, in the oversexed, testosterone-infused, male-dominated political subset of already patriarchal U.S. culture, women might feel the need to one up the boys in order to get ahead. Bits and pieces of Sarah Palin’s weirdness and seeming loss of control over her public image are starting to coalesce and even explain, to a point, why she’s been so hot-to-trot for violent imagery and boastful, remorseless rhetoric.

Andrew Breitbart, as always, is fueling the fire:

Now, personally, being called “alpha” anything brings to mind dogs and the Iditarod trail,but I imagine Sarah considers this one of the most flattering compliments she’s received in, like, forever.  What’s sad is that being called the Alpha Female (which she undoubtedly is) would probably not have cheered her up. In fact, in the GOP sphere of governance, it might even have proved an insult.

I realize that I’m working off of very broad assumptions here, so I will admit this upfront–there exist sexist Democrats and left-wingers and progressives, just as there exist feminist, woman-positive Republicans and right-wingers. But I don’t think it’s unfair to say that, as a whole, Democrats are far more invested in the well-being of American women than Republicans.

Exhibit A: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009–long story short, the Republicans defeated this bill in 2007 and were less than supportive in 2009.

Exhibit B: Anything at all to do with women’s health issues, particularly abortion. As in the case of The International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act, which House Republicans defeated in December because they were unwilling to spend $67 milllion over five years to invest in women.

Exhibit C, and most relevant to Palin’s situation: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Ever since she “blew up” a few years ago, she’s been a bit of an enigma to me–she gives off a Palin-esque vibe in that she’s not the best public speaker, nor the most informed politician, but she has raw charisma and, even better than Palin, an intensely loyal following in her Minnesota home base. Additionally, according to Wikipedia, she “is founder of the House Tea Party Caucus” and the most successful Republican fundraiser in the House.

So why did Bachmann get passed over for a big party leadership position in favor of Jeb Hensarling, a veritable nobody? Sure, she’s extreme, but extremity is what propelled the Tea Party and the Republicans to flip the House in 2010! If anyone frankly deserved a Republican leadership position for pure sweat of the brow, it was Michele Bachmann.

The Republicans can try to justify freezing her out, but their actions are part of a broader, ugly narrative.  The way they treated Rep. Bachmann is very similar to the way John McCain treated Palin during and after his 2008 presidential bid. He was happy to milk her woman-hood in a very obvious attempt to one-up the Democrats in some imaginary “diversity game,” and he had no problem letting her run with wild rhetoric, as long as it was securing the “real America” vote for him. But the minute the race (or jig?) was up, McCain dropped Palin, and he hasn’t voiced a word of support for her since.

The antithesis to Michele Bachmann, the anti-Bachmann if you will, is Nancy Pelosi. She’s a celebrated star in the Democratic party who had an incredibly fruitful four-year term as Speaker of the House. Though she’s portrayed as a shrew by the right, she’s beloved and respected by the members of her party. In short, Pelosi has tapped into a powerful style of leadership that is engaging without being abrasive, forceful without being overly aggressive–she has what Palin wants.

Over at Pajamas Media, a blogger and Palin fan seems to be drinking the same Kool-Aid Sarah’s drinking:

[Palin] must overcome deeply embedded psychic archetypes which tend to discount a woman’s ability to be firm and tough, especially in foreign policy and military matters. Our reluctance to trust a woman in the role of commander in chief is no small thing.  And this reluctance is firmly positioned in the thinking of both men and women.

…Though none of her “mannish” hobbies and military/hunting jargon is fakery (Palin is the real deal), she has foisted this tough-woman image into every one of her political thrusts with pure aplomb. Is there anyone in any enemy country at the moment who does not dread a possible Palin presidency? I don’t think so.

Sarah has, indeed, played the role of tough woman well. She’s publicized her outdoorsy hobbies. She’s advised her followers, “Don’t Retreat. Reload!” She’s published a map with gun sights over the names of 20 Democrats she wanted to oust from office–and she was happy to let everyone think those were gun sights, not contradicting the media’s interpretation until the recent tragedy in Tucson. She even went rogue, just yesterday, in a video accusing her critics of “blood libel,” a needlessly offensive term she might not have used were she not already so deeply entrenched in the mindset that tougher, harsher, brasher is better. Palin’s played the game by Republicans’ rules–she’s more than emphasized the Alpha Male qualities they value.

I almost feel sorry for her, because it’s so apparent that her party is going to pull another Bachmann. They’re profiting off Palin’s efforts now, but, mark my words, they will be quick to disown her when she steps up and demands the seat of power she’s worked tirelessly towards (presidential bid in 2012, mayhaps?).

Palin would probably do better to return to history and take a leaf from Teddy Roosevelt’s book–“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Or better yet, stick with Audre Lorde’s timeless wisdom, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Sexist GOP party leadership is never going to welcome women into the inner circle as long as said women try to win them over with a “manly” act.

2 thoughts on “Sarah Palin, “Blood Libel” and Misunderstanding Leadership”

  1. Good points, Meghan.
    But I think the GOP will push Palin to the end, to run for Prez. I don’t think they will dump her in favor of a male candidate. If she doesn’t run on the GOP ticket it will be because Sarah herself will decide to bow out for her own weird non-explainable reasons.

    Dunno, am not a political watchdog, just my Josephine Q. Public opinion.

    1. It will be really interesting to see how this all shakes out. I think Palin wants to run for President, but I’m not sure the GOP will back her up-they’re sort of in between a rock and a hard place, with Palin being their biggest, most celebrated name, but also a very polarizing figure whom GOP leadership has publicly disagreed with. I think they might try to copy Obama’s rise to power and pick up someone young and fresh. But that’s total speculation, on my part.

      Ah, I LOVE talking politics!

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