Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Personal Is Political

When the feminist movement of the early 1970's coined the phrase "The Personal Is Political", they were thinking of the ways in which politics and social policy effected their lives in very personal ways. From earnings and incentives to work to women's health care, our society was (and to a large extent still is) geared toward privileging men and men's concerns over women. This is not to say changes have not been made. Women still make less than men, though, for the same work. Women's health care - from family planning to end-of-life to health maintenance - is still given a lower priority in many ways to the concerns of men. While it often used the first person singular as a way of illustrating the larger issues involved, biography was never seen as a substitute for serious analysis and seeing these very personal stories in a larger frame of reference.

Conservatives at once reject the notion, and caricature it to the point of ridiculousness. The personal has become so political for them that very often personal moral attributes become a part of a politician's or public figure's curriculum vitae. We are far too often given more information on an individual's personal life than should be necessary to judge that person's fitness for office. The too-often resulting fall from grace of these individuals results in a reduced seriousness in our public discourse. Questions of personal integrity are important, but weighing which parts of a person's life in the balance becomes more and more difficult as we see more and more feet of clay on self-professed upholders of traditional moral values.

The latest example?
AlaskaReport has learned this morning that Todd Palin and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin are to divorce. Multiple sources in Wasilla and Anchorage have confirmed the news. A National Enquirer story exposing previous affairs on both sides led to a deterioration of their marriage and the stress from that led to Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska.

I have written before that I am not the least bit interested in the Palin family and its various doings. At the same time, if it is true that she resigned from office because she feared the revelation of "previous affairs on both sides", this is important, if for no other reason than she was promoted as a candidate because of the strength of her commitment to her family. I wish them both well, and hope, for the sake of their children, the separation does not deteriorate in to recrimination and bitterness.

At the same time, this again raises the issue of the judgment of the Republican Party in choosing Gov. Palin as McCain's running mate last year. Not only was she intellectually and temperamentally unfit for high office; she, as seems clear now, was not what she was advertised to be. While I have no doubt there will be many on the right who will rush to her defense, the end of her marriage only confirms that Sarah Palin is far more normal and average than was advertised. She's a human being who failed. Rather than deal with those failings, and keep them private, however, precisely because of the misuse of "the personal is political", she has been forced off the public stage.

Virtual Tin Cup

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