Conservatives unveiled their vice presidential wildcard with high hopes of courting disaffected Clintonistas and mobilizing the religious base. But the payoff appeared increasingly meager as Sarah Palin’s unscreened embarrassments, from attempted book-bannings to vindictive political purges, came tumbling down her mountain of presumed moral authority.
Fortunately for Republicans, the timidity and “good manners” that served Democrats so well in 2004 are still on full display. The Obama camp appeared paralyzed before the senator himself curtly cut short further talk about the biggest Palin pop-up: the pregnancy of her unwed 17-year-old daughter.
But do these attempts to preserve the moral aura of Sarah Palin serve America’s interests?
Consider Palin’s stance on abortion. In her view, rape and incest are insufficient reasons for granting a woman the right to choose — even, as she has said, if that woman was her own daughter.
From a safe remove, some may admire Palin’s apparently uncompromising stance on the sanctity of life: here is a woman who sticks to her principles.
But is this an honest assessment? While Americans and others around the world heatedly debate whether life begins at conception, delivery, or somewhere in between, everyone can agree that children and adults are living beings.
Therefore, it is prudent to ask a crucial question: why is Palin so fond of unborn life but so contemptuous of those who have exited the womb?
Palin’s loyalties lie with a party that stands against health care for poorer Americans, against relief for indebted homeowners, and against tax breaks for the working and middle-classes. Why do these lives not matter?
Also standing in striking contrast to the GOP’s professed respect for unborn life is its open contempt for dark-skinned life in various corners and crevices of the globe. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, Palin’s party has cheerfully dropped or supplied bombs that have erased thousands of children from the montage of mankind.
So while Democratic centrists stay silent, they pass up a peerless opportunity to ask why the “culture of life” honors those who aren’t yet alive while making sure those who are alive don’t stay alive.
It’s also useful to compare Palin’s position on abortion with that of the next slated target in the Republican war plan: Iran. In 2005, the Iranian parliament passed a law to allow abortion of fetuses up to four months old if they exhibited signs of physical or mental handicap. But the unelected mullahs of The Iranian Guardians Council took the same view as Palin and rejected the move.
In early 2008, Iranian Grand Ayatollah Mazaheri issued a decree allowing unwed mothers the right to choose — a right Palin seeks to abolish for everyone here in America.
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Condom Factory & Sex Education
On the question of sexual education and resources, the Islamic Republic appears enlightened compared to the GOP’s new darling. In Tehran, Iranian citizens can find vending machines with cheap condoms and needles (AIDS is a big concern). Meanwhile, Palin is on the record as saying she would fund abstinence-only propaganda. The mullahs promote sex education in schools and for soon-to-be-brides, and state programs offer sex advice to women that would make Palin and her Christian fundamentalist admirers squeamish.
Despite Palin’s backward positions, some people are overawed by the pull of her personal dramas. Palin, they say, should be applauded for going through with a pregnancy despite a Down Syndrome diagnosis, and should be afforded privacy for her daughter’s personal affairs.
Which is all well and good — except that Palin is running on a platform of subjecting everyone else’s personal affairs to her own judgment, which she seeks to codify into federal law.
Palin’s pregnancy decision may be noble, but her attempt to deny other women the right to make their own decisions is not. Her daughter’s pregnancy may be a private matter, but her plan to deny other children real sex education would leave them and their parents facing the same “private” problem.
The reluctance of Democratic gatekeepers to pounce on Palin’s fundamentalism reflects a level of foolishness that makes John Kerry’s windsurfing adventures appear wise by comparison.
It is not necessary to trash Palin’s private life to point out the perniciousness of her politics. It is only necessary to observe that a morally “perfect” American who works to the public’s detriment is far worse than a flawed American who promotes the general good.
M. Junaid Levesque-Alam blogs about America and Islam at Crossing the Crescent (www.crossingthecrescent.com) and writes about American Muslim identity for WireTap magazine. Co-founder of Left Hook, a youth journal that ran from Nov. 2003 to March 2006, he works as a communications coordinator for an anti-domestic violence agency in the NYC area. He can be reached at: