America’s Sarah Palin Dilemma

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America has a love-hate relationship with Gov. Sarah Palin. Ever since she burst onto the scene in August 2008 as the most unlikely vice-presidential nominee, Gov. Palin has been the victim of some of the most elitist, vicious and downright sexist attacks I have ever seen leveled against an American political candidate.


Say what you like about this perky mother of five turned mayor turned governor, but she is a pioneer. And like it or not, she is the embodiment of modern feminism. Palin is the fulfillment of the dreams of my mother's generation, which encouraged their daughters to get educated, have a profession, pursue their dreams and successfully balance marriage and family life.

As a Gen Xer myself, I am very excited by what Gov. Palin represents. Truth be told, I disagree with many of her political positions, but as a fellow professional woman, I see in her life all that I have aspired to achieve. She is married, she has children, and she is very accomplished in her own right. Isn’t that what the feminist manifesto was all about?

To diminish the significance of her professional accomplishments, as many have, is to be an elitist and political snob. I have been appalled by the outright savagery that the media and political establishment have heaped on her. 

Since that time, the governor has been called “Caribou Barbie” and a “slutty airline attendant.” People have even suggested that her youngest son, Trig, is not her own biological child. I’ve personally listened to friends and colleagues in Washington denigrate this woman’s intelligence and abilities in ways I have never heard them do to anyone else.

Whether you agree or disagree with her, she is entitled to be treated with dignity and worth. Now that Gov. Palin has given a few post-resignation statements and interviews, we know that she is not a quitter, but someone who simply made a decision to protect her family and her constituents. 

Can you imagine going from being a very popular, yet nationally obscure governor of a large state to all of the sudden being thrust into the national spotlight, being dissected by the national press corps over what you wear and how much it costs and being caricatured by SNL? Not to mention the governor says she has $500,000 worth of legal bills as a result of the ethics charges that surfaced when she became a national candidate—charges that her detractors refuse to admit have all been dropped or found to be baseless.


I believe her when she says that she did not want to burden the citizens of Alaska with endless investigations, which require staff resources that come out of the taxpayer’s pocket. I also believe her when she says she has no idea what she will do next—whether she runs in 2012 or simply serves in some other way.  

In the final analysis, Palin’s story is a deeply American story, much like that of our president, first lady and countless other men and women who rise from poverty or working-class roots to achieve great things beyond what even they could have imagined for their lives. We don’t have to agree with Gov. Palin’s politics or her choices in life, but we can and should celebrate the fact that she got into the arena—and that she had the courage to run for vice president of the United States and endure with grace the most unbelievable scrutiny that comes with being only the second woman in history to be nominated for the post.


Sophia A. Nelson is editor-in-chief of She is also a contributor to NPR, Huffington Post, BET and Fox News.