On The Stump Trail: Sarah Palin on Women’s Issues

Amie Newman

Overall, both married and unmarried women are supporting Senator Obama. It may be the reason why Governor Palin came out with her first stump speech about "women's issues" today.

Correction/update as of 8:31pm PST*

CBS News reports on a speech Sarah Palin gave in Las Vegas today in which she talked about women’s oppression worldwide and equal pay here in the United States. It was a speech "dominated by women’s issues"  in a campaign season that has brought more silence than sensation when it comes to these issues.

The speech was perfectly timed to coincide with Senator McCain’s remark of yesterday calling Palin a "direct counterpart to the liberal, feminist agenda", though to make her point that a McCain/Palin administration is more, well, "feminist" than an Obama/Biden administration, Palin trotted out a group of five well-established members of the feminist movement to make her point.

As the Washington Post reports:

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Palin surrounded herself onstage with two higher-profile defectors from Sen. Hillary Clinton’s camp — Lynn Rothschild, a member of the Democratic Platform Committee, and Elaine Lafferty, a former editor-in-chief of Ms. Magazine — along with Sherry Mandell, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, Linda Klinge, the vice president of Oregon’s NOW chapter and Prameela Bartholomeusz, a small business owner and member of the Democratic National Platform Committee.

[Ed. note: *The quote from the Washington Post is incorrect however as it goes on to say that the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) endorsed Palin. According to Kim Gandy, the President of National NOW,  the Los Angeles chapter of NOW has NOT endorsed Governor Palin or the McCain/Palin ticket.] 

Palin went out to claim her role as "advocate for women" if elected to Vice President of the U.S., even going so far as to offer gratitude to the feminists who came before her for the policies that she has benefited from over her lifetime (a decidedly different approach to feminism than apparently Senator McCain has taken):

While she credited feminists with the enactment of Title IX — saying, "We owed that opportunity to women, to feminists who came before us"

Still, Palin left room for the idea that just because the feminist movement has brought immeasurable benefit to many women in the United States and globally, fought for equal pay, equal opportunity and elevation of the status of women in this country, we should consider that there are "other" forms of feminism that may be just as effective:

— Palin quickly emphasized that Americans who embraced a different
ideology could also push for gender equality. "A belief in equal
opportunity is not just the cause of feminists. It’s the creed of our
country."

(Someone needs to tell Palin that the ERA has never been ratified in this country). In addition, Palin used equal pay for women as an issue by which to attack Senator Obama claiming (falsely) that women who work for Obama are not paid on par with their male counterparts. Interestingly, she somehow made the claim that she and Senator McCain would be the ones fighting for women’s equality in the marketplace and noted:

"I know one senator who does pay women equal pay," she added, referring to McCain.

A comment that is especially noteworthy considering Senator McCain didn’t bother to show up to vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Act that would have legislated equal pay for women. Palin stood with McCain in support of the Supreme Court case that ruled there is a statute of limitations for bringing a suit against an employer for equal pay. It begs the question: why are women in the McCain campaign worthy of equal pay when the rest of American women are not? 

Palin in fact proposed what seem to be concrete policy ideas that included "flexibility in labor laws so women could engage in more telecommuting and would push for a tax code "that doesn’t penalize working families." She did not elaborate on how that relates to Senator McCain’s overall economic plan that provides relief in the form of the largest tax cuts for the highest income generating families. In addition, in fact, McCain’s plan allows for less tax relief for working families than does Senator Obama’s. 

Despite the uncertainty of how Governor Palin, as Vice President, would be, what she calls, "an advocate and defender" of women, it may be worth noting that the importance of the women’s vote is clearly undeniable this election season. Whether or not last minute stump speeches hold the power to rally the women that have so far not registered as supporters of McCain and Palin, we have yet to see. Overall, both married and unmarried women are supporting Senator Obama by an overwhelming margin. 

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