Palin will never be acceptable to the alleged liberals


Perhaps by 2040 we will have left behind the reactionary attitude to pro-life women, writes Breda O'Brien

PIPER PALIN for presidential candidate in 2040! For those of you living under a rock, Piper is the extremely cute seven-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin. Sky News could not resist cutting away from her mother's acceptance speech to show Piper licking her palm and carefully smoothing the hair of her baby brother Trig, who has Down syndrome. Later on, she took the applause of the crowd with aplomb. John McCain bent down to talk to her, and she made him laugh.

Yep, Piper Palin for presidential candidate in 2040.

Hey, by 2040, we may have reached a stage where it is not acceptable to suggest that a woman who has a child with special needs and a teenager who is pregnant should stay home and mind the kids instead of involving herself in politics. Joe Biden was deemed a hero for continuing to work and commute when his wife was tragically killed. No one suggested he stay home and mind his bereaved sons.

By 2040, we may have outgrown the habit of attacking a candidate's family. We might not have commentators like syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, who described Bristol Piper, the pregnant daughter, as looking "stupid and defiant". She suggested that anyone who could identify with Sarah Palin's "dysfunctional family" would have to be "from Mars, or on welfare". Froma, why not just come straight out and say that the Palins are white trash?

Then there is the elitism of 1970s feminists. Gloria Steinem, the grand dame of American feminism who is two years older than John McCain, declared acidly: "Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton".

Sojourner Truth, a former slave, gave an electrifying speech at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. Sojourner punctuated her speech with the rhetorical question: "And ain't I a woman?"

It is a feminist mantra that politics needs the active participation of women. Sarah Palin could echo "And ain't I a woman?" However, in the world inhabited by Steinem-style feminists, some women are more equal than others. And women who are anti-abortion scarcely rate as women at all.

On the face of it, Palin should be a feminist's dream. She has made it in politics without having a rich father or an established politician husband. She juggles family life with politics. She is sharp, and tough, and has moved smoothly from state politics to the national stage with style and wit. Instead, she is an old-time feminist's nightmare.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, she can expect no help from the sisters. But I suspect Sarah Palin couldn't care less. She is not there to attract disillusioned Hillary voters who cannot forgive Barack Obama for not putting Mrs Clinton on the ticket. She is there to copper-fasten the conservative vote, and she will do just that. The die-hard Republicans who view McCain with much the same suspicion as Steinem views Palin are back on board. Meanwhile, McCain, with his conciliatory speech, will be the one to target the middle ground.

It is certainly true that there are lots of Americans who will not be able to bring themselves to vote for Barack Obama, simply because he is black. But there are lots of others who will not be able to bring themselves to vote for him, not because he is black, but because he is not one of them. The skinny intellectual with the funny name and the dubious patriotism is just too strange for most of these people. That may be the United States' loss, although it is still too close to call.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin, with her son heading off to Iraq, her pregnant daughter, her high-school sweetheart who is "still her guy" and her defiant adoration of her baby with special needs, is as familiar as breathing.

Sarah Palin's secret weapon, one that the media and political elite will never fathom, is that she is likeable. Sure, she has absolutely unreconstructed conservative policies. The worst part of Palin's speech was when she started on all the old Republican memes - fear big government! The Democrats will tax you to death! Drill for oil and to hell with the environment! In spite of, or sadly, perhaps even because of all that, she is a woman that many Americans would be happy to have a beer or even a mooseburger with.

The likeability factor worked for Ronnie Reagan, for Bill Clinton, and for Dubya Bush. For those who are fixated on ideas and policies, it is unfathomable. We Irish should recognise the likeability factor, not to mention that old Teflon thing. Bertie Ahern is writing reflective pieces on retirement for The Irish Times, while Brian Cowen is growing ulcers figuring out what to do with an economy in meltdown. Sarah Palin's family difficulties have only made the Republicans, and a lot of middle America, love her more.

In my mythical election of 2040, if drastic action is not taken now, the potential devastation caused by global warming will make being president in 2008 during an economic downturn look like a doddle. Piper may have a hard time in 2040 explaining away Mom's policies. The odd thing is that John McCain, aside from daft ideas like a petrol tax holiday, has taken on board the need for radical action on global warming.

But Sarah Palin's policies on global warming are not the only or even central reason that she is the subject of such dislike for some US citizens. Nor is it the fact that she shoots moose before breakfast and eats them for dinner. (Just not on the same day. Don't you know anything about hunting?) Sarah Palin, with her staunch belief that human life deserves respect and protection from conception onwards, will never be acceptable to alleged liberals.

Perhaps by 2040 we will have left behind that kind of knee-jerk, reactionary attitude to pro-life women. Perhaps Piper Palin will be judged on her ability, not whether she ticks the right boxes. All we would need then is for Sasha, the Obamas' daughter, to decide to run against her. That might be proof that Americans have safely left behind them not only the question of whether they have the heart to elect a black person, but also proof that the shards of the glass ceiling will finally have been recycled into something useful.