All right. I admit it. I’m a sexist. I am guilty because I have used the expression “lipstick on a pig.” This has to be the silliest, dumbest political flap of all time. “Lipstick on a pig” is a common political expression. It is commonly used in debate in the Texas House to describe an amendment that is a desperate attempt to salvage a bad bill that is under attack. I employed the term as the headline for an item I wrote about proposed “reforms” for the Texas Residential Construction Commission. The point being that there are some things that are so inherently ugly that no amount of prettying-up can help. Somehow, “new paint on an old house” just doesn’t carry the same punch. It has been just one week since the Republican convention ended, and in that time Sarah Palin has transformed American politics. The gender card turns out to be trumps. At a time when negative attacks are a standard tactic, the Republicans have insisted that the rules of chivalry be restored. Not a bad word must be said about milady. Not a question raised about her past. Her knight and champion, John McCain, will strike down the varlet who dares to speak ill of her. The rules are that she is free to attack — and exempt from attack. It has always been a dicey matter to figure out how to run a negative campaign against a woman: Claytie Williams famously lost a governor’s race for refusing to shake hands with Ann Richards. But this goes beyond anything we have ever seen. Obama can’t say “lipstick on a pig” without being accused of demeaning not only Sarah Palin but all women. Clearly, the Democrats do not have a clue about how to deal with this phenomenon. They are in deep, deep trouble in this election. Palin is dominating the news. Here’s the question: Is the impact she is having on this race unique to this election, a result of her image and personality? Or is it the beginning of the feminization of American politics, an era when women have a decided advantage over men and, at the very least, a woman must be included on every ticket? Right now, I’d say this is all about Sarah Palin. But the lesson will not be lost on political pros. I think that the next decade in American politics will be all about the search for more Sarah Palins.
Politics & Policy