That Thursday night, Barack Obama rocked the Mile High Stadium. Obama soared, McCain sank. Then the next week came Sarah Palin, who electrified the Republican convention and soon was the topic of conversation. The Obama campaign was eclipsed by the Palin din.
What was at first surprise for many politically active women turned to disbelief and then to anger. Picking Palin was a transparent effort by McCain to woo Clinton supporters: "Vote for Palin, she is one of you." But even a cursory look at her right-wing credentials proved she was not one with most of us. Nonetheless, her selection was sucking up media attention and stealing momentum from the Obama campaign. What to do?
Two young women soon had an idea. On September 3, Quinn L. and Lyra K. from New York City sent an e-mail to 40 of their friends and colleagues asking them what they thought about Palin's candidacy. Those friends forwarded Quinn and Lyra's letter to their friends across America. Within the first week, Quinn and Lyra say they've received 70,000 responses from women of all ages and backgrounds. Many of the responses have been posted on a blog. HereÃ¢'ê¬Ës a sampling of the writings:Alyce S., 35, from Marfa, Texas: "I oppose her nomination not only because my position on critical issues, such as reproductive rights, separation of church and state, global warming, the development of alternative sources of energy, and war are diametrically opposed to hers, but because she is utterly inexperienced and unqualified to hold the any position close in magnitude to the one she has been offered." Sophie O., 42, from Burlingame, California: "Sarah Palin's mocking, sarcastic speech at the Republican National Convention made me very nervous about having her at a table with world leaders. The thought of her representing our country among sophisticated, diplomatic, global thinkers scares me. I feel belittled by her selection and appalled by the candidate." Rosemarie M., from Sarasota, Florida: "As a woman, I was insulted that John McCain thought all women are equal and that women will vote for a candidate for Vice Pres. simply because she is a woman.. To think that a Hillary Clinton fan would vote Republican because he selected Sarah Palin to be his Vice Pres candidate is irrational."
But blog-venting has its limits. Psychologists call too much talking to the same people on the same negative issues "co-ruminating," which can lead to depression and inaction. I was beginning to feel down myself, so I went to the organizing meeting of Washington Women for Obama last night in Seattle. The meeting was chaired by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and led by Kerry Annette Wade, Women and African American Outreach Director for the State Democratic Coordinated Campaign. The meeting drew an overflow crowd, and women were sitting on the floor, leaning against the walls, and set up in an annex around the corner. Sen. Kohl-Welles wheeled in her 92 year-old mom, and the seas parted to find her space.
Washington Women for Obama focuses on traditional women's issues such as achieving equal pay for equal work, protecting women's health, addressing domestic violence, funding child care, and protecting the right of women to choose. To their credit, the local Obama campaign leaders refused to criticize Sarah Palin or allow negative talk about her. One Palin jab thrown in from the audience was promptly squelched, and Kerry Wade made clear that she respected Ms. Palin for her accomplishments but disagreed with her positions on most issues.
This was not to be a name-calling session. These women came to refocus the debate, back to the issues and back to the policies that matter to women. Many here had supported Hillary Clinton, and all wanted more women in high office. But these women reject McCainÃ¢'ê¬Ës cynical ploy. These women care about reproductive rights, about health care, about jobs, and about stopping the war. No, not just any woman will do.Kerry Wade invited women to connect with local representatives, to reach out to unregistered and undecided voters, to recruit new volunteers, and to rebuild morale for volunteers who may be flagging. Plans for house parties and canvassing emerged. No more ruminating or hand wringing here.