The blogosphere has been awash in suggestions that Sarah Palin will be widely viewed as politically inexperienced, a lightweight beauty queen, and even a bad mother. But today polling is out, and it shows Palin has made a great first impression on the American public; she is viewed favorably by 78 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of unaffiliated voters. Compare that to a roll-out favorability rating of just 43 percent for Joe Biden. Women seem to be more skeptical of Palin than men, but that is to be expected; on average, women are more skeptical of all conservative politicians and policies than men are.
I hope these numbers serve as a wake-up call for both the national media and the liberal blogosphere. Independent pro-choice women won't be taken in by McCain's pandering choice, but that doesn't mean the American public will respond kindly to the vilification of this woman. She is attractive, and a working mom doing one of the most difficult jobs in the world -- raising a child with a disability. Yes, she is a former beauty queen who made it in politics. Most Americans will say, "Good for her," not, "OMG WTF!!! She's not qualified!" They will see themselves and people they know in Palin, her family, and their story.
It is especially silly to suggest (à la one of Andrew Sullivan's readers) that conservatives will be appalled by a woman with five kids running for high office, believing she won't have enough time for mothering. Conservatives have always approved of their own women as working moms. Who do you think was taking care of Phyllis Schlafly's kids while she traveled the country decrying the ERA? Last year I wrote a profile of conservative sweetheart Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. She got married later in life -- because, as she says herself, she was devoted to her career -- and also has a son with Down Syndrome. Her husband, a retired admiral, stays home with baby! Here's McMorris Rodgers describing the arrangement:
I quite honestly am guilty of putting most of my time and energy into career for most of my life. A key factor for me is that I have a wonderful husband. He's retired and he's at home right now with Cole. He's looking forward to being a caretaker.
Movement types adore this woman! And Palin has a similar story.
Of course, the hypocrisy is very deep. Liberal feminists are not allowed to discuss women's choices and struggles with work-life balance without being painted as radical whiners. But these are issues for professional conservative women, too. Their base knows it, and generally approves of these female politicians' decisions and sacrifices, which they see as serving a greater cause. The Obama campaign and its supporters won't win very many hearts and minds attacking Palin for her personal life or even lack of political experience -- she's simply too compelling of a figure. So let's stick to the issues when discussing Palin: her denial of human causes of global warming, her opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and evidence of her possible corruption. There's more than enough there without descending into the attacks that are only all too common when it comes to female politicians.