Ridicule, fine. Misogynistic ridicule, not so good.
Bearing this in mind, let us consider the Florida Democratic State Party's email blast sent out today, over the name of Florida's Democratic Party State Chair and Obama superdelegate Karen Thurman.
What, you may ask, is wrong with this? Sarah Palin is indeed a conservative Republican; she is indeed under investigation for corruption. But note the sentence put in bold, where Thurman refers to Gov. Palin as "Dan Quayle in a dress." If Thurman wanted to criticize or even ridicule Sarah Palin's intelligence, fine by me. Ridicule is a tried and true political tactic. But a wiser ridiculer would not included the gratutious reference to women's attire. Because once that reference is added, it becomes ambiguous as to whether Sarah Palin is being ridiculed for lacking smarts or because she is female. And no, it makes no difference that this remark is meant to contrast Palin with Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton's intelligence is obvious to all the world. The appropriate contrast would have been between Senator Obama's chosen running mate, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin, and if the basis of the contrast is that one v.p. pick is smarter than the other, then the gender of either has nothing to do with anything.
From: Karen Thurman, Florida Democratic Party [mailto:email@example.com
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2008 3:51 PM
Subject: Heartbeat from the Presidency
John McCain rolled the dice with his VP pick today - in an attempt to woo women voters.
But we cannot gamble with women's lives.
Don't let your friends, family and co-workers be fooled: Alaskan Sarah Palin is a dangerous right-winger who lacks the judgment to lead.
In 2000, Palin endorsed Pat Buchanan for President. Yes, that Pat Buchanan.
In 2006, Palin ran for Alaska Governor on a message of change - and then turned out to be just another corrupt Alaska politician who's now under investigation in her own state.
She's no Hillary Clinton. She's Dan Quayle in a dress.
Women voters who care about equal rights, choice, family and other issues, will not see a partner in Palin.
Help us fight for these issues by electing Democrats up and down the ticket. Click here to donate today:
She is lockstep with Bush and McCain on issues important to women. Every one of them. That's scary.
The corrupt trio of Ted Stevens, Don Young, and Lisa Murkowski all raised campaign money for Palin.
John McCain claimed that Barack Obama lacked experience. Then he picked a VP who has just 20 months at the helm of a state with a population smaller than the city of Jacksonville, and zero foreign policy experience. Palin would be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Barack Obama is ready to lead. Last night he showed us what the next American President will look like. He and Joe Biden will deliver change we need.
The stakes are too high to risk another four years of the same. If you have $25, $50 or $100 to spare, please contribute today to the Florida Democratic Party's campaign to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. We're on the verge of major change in Florida, but we need your help.
Congresswoman Karen L. Thurman
Chair, Florida Democratic Party
Paid for and authorized by the Florida Democratic Party, www.fladems.com.
So, there it is again, the tendency of current state and national Democratic officials to display misogyny, at a time when such displays are very likely to cost the Party its best shot at the Presidency since President Clinton was reelected to office.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the burden to prove that he understands and will speak out against sexism and misogyny within the Democratic Party is upon Senator Obama. I recognize that he is in a bind because, not having spoken out previously, he might seem like he is merely being expedient in speaking out now. The challenge for him is how to walk that tightrope - it is one he and his advisers, with the help of Dr. Dean and Speaker Pelosi - set up. It is there and either Senator Obama will walk it with aplomb and grace; or he will try to pretend it isn't a real challenge for him; or he will fall off the highwire.