Quite a few news stories and op-eds about the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter have touched on the issue of the alleged “hypocrisy” of the G.O.P. vice-presidential nominee. But I’d have to agree here with James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, who said that the story doesn’t suggest hypocrisy on the part of Governor Palin and that “all it really means is that she and her family are human.”
Indeed, there are pretty serious questions raised here about the efficacy of sexual abstinence as a birth-control method, but there doesn’t seem to be much two-facedness: Palin’s daughter got pregnant, and in keeping with her parents views on abortion (and possibly her own, though that’s not known), Bristol Palin is going to have the baby and marry the father.
Michael Graham, of the Boston Herald, also expressed sympathy for the Palin family, in a piece headlined, “Millions of mothers can relate to Palin.”
Does her daughter’s pregnancy provide the opening Democrats need? It’s too early to say, but my guess is no. In fact, if anything, this storyline is likely to help the McCain/Palin ticket. First, it will drive the ratings for Palin’s speech tomorrow night through the roof. I’ve been predicting that the tune-in for her speech would be second only to Obama’s “Night at the Parthenon” show. If the McCain campaign leaks word that Palin’s going to address her daughter’s pregnancy, she may surpass him.
Second, this story will appeal to the women voters Palin was always put on the ticket to target – not the hard-core Hillary Lefties, but the swing, suburban moms. Palin is never going to be popular with New York Times feminists. Palin’s appeal is with working women who’ve had encounters with low-level sexism but, instead of whining about it, got back to work making happy, successful lives.
Her daughter’s pregnancy highlights another part of Palin’s appeal. Her normalcy. Here’s a woman who has run a business, raised a family, who is sending a son off to Iraq, who has another son with a disability, and now has to help her teenage daughter face motherhood. These are experiences that millions of American moms have shared, can relate to and understand. Sarah Palin is as accessible as Obama is exotic.
I’m not so sure about that analysis. Yes, Christian conservatives admire Palin more than ever, but they were going to vote overwhelmingly for McCain anyway. And it’s true that millions of moms can no doubt “relate to Palin” because they’ve had a young daughter who got pregnant or have spent a lot of time worrying about the possibility. But how many “swing, suburban moms” actually required (or even would have allowed) their teenage daughters to have the baby and marry the adolescent groom?
Probably not too many. The public and the media don’t take well to “family values” advocates who suddenly decide abortion might not be such a bad idea when their girlfriends get pregnant. But I’d bet such hypocrisy is a lot easier to “relate to” for many voters than Sarah Palin’s ideological purity.
Update: Sarah Palin identifies herself as a “hockey mom.” Looks like her daughter is one too.