Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the Mystery of the Political Nincompoops

July 19, 2011

Can someone please tell me what forces in the universe have aligned to allow women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann to garner tremendous support from Republicans, especially from Republican women? The list of falsehoods, historical revisions, and outright lies told by both Palin and Bachmann are endless. These “mistakes” can’t even be considered gaffes at this point. Gaffes are usually rare social blunders that the offender usually retracts. Not these women. They proudly ride their mistakes and historical inaccuracies to the bottom of the ocean like the captain of the Titanic, although not nobly as we would think of a captain, but frantically, running throughout the ship screaming, “Ignore the rising water at your knees! The ship is NOT sinking!” How many “gaffes” does it take to get to the center of a nincompoop’s thought process, for it to be seen as evidence of incompetence? More importantly, as the evidence of their ineptitude mounts, how do they continue to remain topics in serious political conversation?

Understanding how we arrived at this point in time and space is necessary to understanding the phenomenon of the inescapable political nincompoop. President Obama’s historic presidential run thrust the Republican Party to scramble for diversity in their party, leading to the election of Michael Steele (the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee) as if to say, “Look, we can be Black, too!” However, the Republican Party quickly realized that a Black party chairman would not be enough to win over uninformed voters, so they executed their next ploy: Sarah Palin. With her selection as the Vice Presidential nominee and the subsequent elevation of Michele Bachmann as the poor man’s Palin, the Republican Party professed, “Not only are we Black, but we have breasts, too!”

These obvious and completely transparent tactics are politics at their worst. The Republican Party wishes to use these tokens as carrots for “independents” who might be foolish enough to believe that Palin, Bachmann, and Steele represent an evolution in Republican ideology. They don’t. They are just new packaging of outdated, oppressive, conservative ideology.

The truth is Palin and Bachmann (and Steele) are not Republican pioneers; they are Republican tools. Their elections and appointments are not testaments to the Republican Party’s commitment to women’s issues (or African-American issues). Sarah Palin’s and Michele Bachmann’s sense of feminism ends as soon as they finish applying lipstick in the morning (simple-minded “mama grizzly” talk included). Their feminist identity exists only in their genital composition, which is ideal for the GOP. Endorsing a candidate that demands equal pay for equal work, a woman’s right to choose, or a workplace free of sexual harassment would not sit well with a party of white men who believe a women’s right to choose should limited to “paper or plastic.” Combine this simple-mindedness with good looks and you have a patriarchal GOP’s perfect weapon to combat the election of the first Black (or half-Black, if you prefer) President of the United States: devout know-nothings who look cute in a pantsuit.

I am not now, nor have I ever been a woman, but even I was insulted by Sen. John McCain’s selection of Palin as his Vice Presidential nominee. It offends me that of all the qualified Republican governors and senators, the GOP came up with Sarah Palin, clearly because of her attractiveness and not her aptitude. This is the epitome of patriarchy and male chauvinism. It is obvious by the lack of vetting of Palin that the GOP is only concerned about what is between Palin’s legs and not what’s between her ears. Why are Republican women not outraged by the Palin nomination and prominence of Bachmann for being what they are: political maneuvering that discounts the intellectual value of women?

I suppose the answer to my previous question and the answer to the mystery of the political nincompoops lies in the facts about the GOP. In the table below are the numbers and percentages of women in Congress, separated by political party affiliation. As you can see from 1991-1993, even though the Democrats were slightly better, the percentage of women in congress in both parties was atrociously low: 5% (Senate) and 7% (House) for Democrats, compared to 2% (Senate) and 5% (House) for Republicans. Twenty years later, the percentage of women in congress has improved greatly for Democrats, while only improving marginally for Republicans. Currently, women make up 24% of Democratic Senate seats and 25% of Democratic House seats. By comparison, women make up only 11% of Republican Senate seats and a mere 10% of Republican House seats.

Women in Congress by Political Party Affiliation
Congress Years Democratic Party Republican Party
Senate House Senate House
102nd 1991-1993 3 of 56 (5%) 19 of 270 (7%) 1 of 44 (2%) 9 of 164 (5%)
107th 2001-2003 9 of 50 (18%) 41 of 211 (19%) 4 of 50 (8%) 18 of 221 (8%)
112th 2011-2013 12 of 51 (24%) 48 of 193 (25%) 5 of 47 (11%) 24 of 242 (10%)
Source: Center for American Women in Politics, 2011.

This may be the answer to the mystery: Republican women are so starved of representation in their own party that any woman the good ol’ boys put up is good enough. This is the only explanation that makes sense in light of Palin’s and Bachmann’s profound ignorance of basic American history, their inability to link two thoughts together in a coherent fashion, and their disregard for issues that affect women. Compound this desperation with a patriarchal Republican Party and you get the rise of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann – poster children for a woman’s lack of choice.

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One Response to “Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the Mystery of the Political Nincompoops”

  1. When you commented on my blog, I decided to check yours out. To prove my point, in your original posts, you insulted two political figures, used the word fight (in a good context though), and the word racism in three consecutive posts.

    (So, in case you’re wondering, you’re entitled to use these words -I promise I won’t go out and do ‘bad things’ because you talked about racism or insulted people.)

    Not quite an obsessions with those terms — but you have the makings of a pattern. Wonder if it will continue?

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