Her Competence and Integrity are What Count, but Governor Palin Should Update Her Look, Too

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In complaining that Senator John McCain is making a cynical choice to appeal to women and Evangelical voters in choosing as his running mate Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, critics are saying a great deal more about themselves than about Governor Palin.

It’s no wonder some leftists are exercised. In many cases, they make sense of the world via identity politics: women, blacks, Latinos, minorities of all kinds are to be respected and awarded because they are minorities, and not because of the content of their character.

The nomination of Governor Palin will be especially threatening to people who think first in terms of race and gender and second in terms of individual character because whatever one thinks of her politics, based on her outstanding performance as Governor of Alaska, no one can take issue with her competence. And she is clearly a human being of great character.

For example, she and her husband Todd are both pro-life. Upon discovering, at 43, that she was pregnant with a child who has Down Syndrome, she continued the pregnancy and four months ago gave birth to the couple’s son Trig, the youngest of their five children.

Whatever one’s views on abortion or the difficult decision Governor Palin and her husband faced, no one can doubt she has the courage of her convictions.

Senator McCain may have chosen shrewdly; that is what good politicians do. But above and beyond her value as a strategic asset to the McCain campaign, Governor Palin is clearly a person of substance and rare ability.

In other words, what the cynics are missing—again, because of their own elevation of identity politics above individualism—is that she is an asset to the McCain campaign because of who she is as an individual, not just as a female. The fact that she is a remarkably accomplished woman in a male-dominated field only highlights her unique character and abilities.

On a less substantive note: Governor Palin does need a makeover, and quick. Looking closely, anyone can tell she is a beautiful woman, but her hairstyle is way too 1950’s, and although she wears glasses well, to some extent they hide her large, beautiful eyes.

Her beauty and relative youth are great assets, all the more so given McCain’s age-related image problem. (This is not about what’s high-minded, what is truly important or whether concerns about McCain’s age are valid).

With her image broadcast across the country as voters weigh the candidates’ merits, Governor Palin could use an update that emphasizes her beauty and does not hide it. It is hers, and she ought to use it along with her intellect, energy, diligence, charisma, charm, and every other quality she possesses, the way every man who has ever succeeded has done.

Her beauty is not what makes her admirable, and not what is important by a long shot, but the reality is, this is an image obsessed, youth-conscious country increasingly dominated by media, especially broadcast media. Anyone in public life would do well to get savvy to the awesome power of image.

Setting aside one’s political opinions, consider Hillary Clinton: as a dowdy, headband-wearing, bushy-browed first lady (can anyone say scary radical feminist?), her utopian dream of universal health care came crashing down. Fast-forward a few years: can this be the same woman, charging like a chic, pantsuit-clad lioness with smartly coiffed mane to Senatorial victory in a state not her own?

And consider Barack Obama. Yes, the man is a phenomenal speaker, but honestly, what, other than running a brilliant campaign, has he truly accomplished? And yet, his name is on the lips of every American; he has obtained the Democratic nomination and stands, after not quite four undistinguished years in the U.S. Senate, poised to become leader of the free world. How? Why? Because he was an outstanding Senator? (He was not, while Palin has undeniably been an outstanding governor). Rather, he has brilliantly harnessed the power of his unique image.

Personally, I think governor Palin looks great and I’m certainly not suggesting any short skirts or low cut tops; after all, the woman is a serious leader and a Conservative with a capital C. But this is an image-driven world and the average voter may not look too deeply.

The McCain camp wants to appeal to women across the board, which means not just in towns like Peoria and Wasilla but also cities like Philadelphia and Miami (and their suburbs). In today’s world, recreation for most American women is far more likely to entail shopping, or trying a new hair color or cut, than hunting moose.

In getting American women to identify with/turn out for Governor Palin, some contact lenses and especially a more flattering haircut would be a great start. It wouldn’t hurt with American men, either.

This entry was written by and posted on August 30, 2008 at 6:25 pm and filed under Blog.