As we are days (hours? minutes?) away from learning who Joe Biden will choose as his running mate, an old VP pick has regained national attention thanks to a recently published op-ed. In Matt Lewis' Daily Beast article entitled "Dems Say Sexist Attacks Are Wrong. Someone Tell Sarah Palin!" the columnist asserts that the Democratic Party, women’s groups, and liberal elites in the media are “a bunch of hypocrites” for preparing for sexist attacks to be levied against Biden’s future Veep. Where does this alleged hypocrisy stem from? According to the op-ed, it all has to do with “their sexist attacks” that “helped batter a young female rising star deemed as an existential threat.” The existential threat being Sarah Palin running alongside Republican Presidential candidate John McCain in 2008.
“Don’t get me wrong. Pushing back against sexism is good,” he writes. “But it also strikes me as a bit self-serving, coming from a party that has been less than chivalrous to women who got in the way of their liberal agenda.”
“This is a good time to force Democrats to grapple with what they did to Palin,” writes Lewis (a straight, white man), ultimately faulting liberals — including liberal women — for ending Palin’s political career. But Lewis fails to acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of Palin's criticism came from her championing ideas that are problematic or meaningless. He also seems to overlook that holding a woman like Palin accountable for perpetuating damage is not related to her gender. What is anti-feminist is to avoid criticizing her because she is a woman.
During her time in politics, especially on the national stage, Palin flexed numerous ideas — of which her identity as a woman had no relevant influence — that were gibberish at best and, on occasion, incredibly dangerous. For one, she was a proponent of birtherism, the theory that former President Barack Obama wasn’t actually a U.S. citizen. In 2011, she praised Donald Trump for investigating Obama. “He’s not just throwing stones from the sidelines, he’s digging in,” said Palin. “He’s paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate.”
In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, the former Alaska governor described the Hispanic population in the United States as “helping to build America” but then followed it up by saying, “You want to be in America? A: You’d better be here legally or you’re out of here. B: When you’re here, let’s speak American.” In a piece for right-wing outlet Breitbart, Palin wrote: “Because of Obama’s purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services.”
Palin also regularly advocated against restrictions on gun ownership rights, she was still against abortion even in instances of rape and incest, and she opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions. In 2008, she went as far as to say that she hoped to see a federal ban on same-sex marriages. “I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that's where we would go. I don't support gay marriage," Palin told Christian Broadcasting Network at the time.
This isn't to say that Palin never faced sexism. Like all women in politics, she has undoubtedly faced unfair criticism and judgement based solely on her gender, and likely needed to work harder than a man to get to where she did in her career.
Sexism and discrimination are consistent problems regardless of political party affiliation; however, to suggest that Palin was unsuccessful purely due to sexism from the Democratic Party and the media isn’t an accurate assessment. In truth, Palin failed to gain a larger platform because the ideas she supported were not something the majority of voters could get behind.
To cast Sarah Palin as the victim of sexism at the hands of a hypocritical political party — and to use this as a defense against the future sexism that Biden's VP will inevitably face — is a massive stretch of historic interpretation. Palin's track record is alarming for a person of any gender, and should be taken to task, just as any vice-presidential candidate should be. That includes Biden's future running mate, too.
So rather than prepare quips about our potential future vice president's appearance, demeanor, or worse, "ambition," be prepared to critique her policies and perspectives.