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There’s been a lot of chat about the $150,000 wardrobe redo Sarah Palin received. Also it turns out that there was a lot of money spent on make-up and a voice coach. Along with many others, I questioned the decision to spend money on clothes in lieu of a tutor. Some Republicans want their money back over the expenditures.
The McCain/GOP answer has been that we should be focusing on something other than clothing. And I agree. There is a much better story here. One that will resonate and affect the GOP after the election. Because it truly speaks to what that party has become, and whether it survives intact much beyond this election cycle. 2008 is transformational not only for the Democrats. Remember, the GOP schismed in 1964, and didn’t really recover until 1980, when they found a new voice in Reagan.
So how do clothes relate to the GOP in its entirety? It has to do with the base values of the party.
John McCain won the primary. After the election, people will look at the part of the GOP vote that was split by Mitt and Mike, the problems with Rudy and Fred’s campaigns, why people like Tom Tancredo never had a shot, but the bottom line is: John won. Definitively. It was not like the Democratic primary race where there were no fundamental policy differences between the candidates: ALL the Dems in contention agree with the platform.
Platforms define parties. In the GOP platform discussion, they spend a lot of time on stem cells, abortion, gay marriage and “family values”. Their tent is small, and yet internally divisive.
The GOP electorate selected a candidate to lead the ticket who was, supposedly, a “maverick”, someone not necessarily to the evangelical base of the party, nor the “whaddaya mean we can’t donate as much as we want to campaigns?” rich-right. He had some appeal to the Rockefeller base in that he’s always been anti-regulation. He had appeal to the part of the evangelical base that actually knew he shared their “values”.
He wanted to choose TLB Joe as his running mate, but rumour has it that it was nixed by Karl Rove. From my first post after her selection:
Next, and I HATE HATE HATE saying this: look at her clothes. While I tend to be oblivious to such things, most people, especially low-information voters, are not.
Finally, look at how she is treated by the Republicans. McCain had women choices: Kay Bailey Hutchison, Liddy Dole, Olympia Snowe, Christy Todd Whitman, Susan Collins, Jodi Rell, Linda Lingell, Jane Hull -- all Republican Senators or Governors with experience and portfolio. You might not know all of them, but they have stature. Will Sarah Palin be treated as a member of the club, or as a neophyte?
A few weeks later, I wrote about the evangelical question related to the relationship of men and women within the hard line churches. That is, that women must be subservient to men in terms of the roles they are allowed to have. They are not, for example, to be active leaders in the churches.
Had McCain picked any of the GOP women I listed in my first post, they would not have needed a wardrobe equal to more than three times the median income. While certainly women are held to a higher standard of dress than men, they have enough gravitas that “regular” suits would have done it.
Had she had the ability to intelligently articulate her positions, she wouldn’t be out on the stump saying things like “Someone once called me a redneck woman, and I said ‘thank you’” (I heard that on TV).
But most importantly in all this is the view of women IN the Republican Party BY the members of the Republican Party. After the election, will the party value in their women standard bearers good looking women over smart women? If the McShame-Spunky ticket wins, does the GOP become an effectual religious party, ruled by evangelicals? If so, would Spunky be relegated to a “Barbie” role in the administration? If they lose, will the evangelical base/financial base be unable to co-exist in the same party? If they lose, McCain will be blamed, and a vacuum for control will evolve: will the Mike Huckabee “make the Constitution subservient to the Bible” fringe win the internal battle? Will the Mittens economic sector? Will the GOP be forced to become more centrist as the minority party?
But above all, win or lose, after the election, will there be a female voice in the party? Strong and proud, or relegated to vacuously looking good?
And in answer to the question “Why do we care, we’re Democrats?” I say this: until we become a multi-party system, they are our counterpart. If we win, especially if we win a legitimate mandate, and we don’t find a way to work WITH them, we could lose big in two years. Remember what happened in 1994. And we need to know with whom we need to work.