XX Factor bloggers Ann Hulbert, Rachael Larimore, and Emily Yoffe discuss Sarah Palin.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Sept. 4 2008 2:36 PM

Parsing Palin

XX Factor bloggers take readers' questions about the Republican vice-presidential nominee and her speech.

(Continued from Page 3)

SSMD: There has been a lot of talk about Palin's choice energizing the Republican base, but from what I've heard from friends around the country, it's energizing the Democrats too (to work for Obama.)

Emily Yoffe: If you're an ardent Obama supporter, I would think her speech would be energizing. I thought her attacks were so effective because she gave them with good humor and they hit at a real weakness: Obama's major accomplishment is himself. This can be an effective argument to make to undecided voters and something Obama has to artfully address.

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Laurel, Md.: Will anyone be asking Sarah Palin whether she still thinks that abstinence-only sex education is still an effective way to prevent teen pregnancies?

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Ann Hulbert: A lot of people are talking about Bristol Palin as a "teachable moment," which should mean that a discussion of just how well different approaches are working could be aired. I know that the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has tried to capitalize on headline out-of-wedlock pregnancies as occasions to push their message that it takes more than just abstinence classes or peddling of contraceptives to encourage kids to think seriously about their relationships, about parenthood, about their futures. The emphasis is always on the importance of parents talking about this with their kids, and surely that's an approach that has appeal across parties. And a slight uptick lately in teen pregnancies, after decades of decline, may well encourage more constructive discussion about the efficacy of abstinence education, you never know.

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Arlington, VA: Is it odd that Palin made absolutely no reference to important social issues such as abortion and marriage? Has she already given the 'secret handshake' with conservatives so she won't be talking about these topics so she doesn't turn off the moderates ?

Rachael Larimore: I've read that the speech was largely written before Palin had been named as a candidate, so the goal might indeed have been not to turn off the moderates to whom the McCain campaign must reach out if he hopes to become president.

On the other hand, we learned a great deal about Palin's views on abortion this week. I felt Palin used the speech to show us her views and thoughts on other issues. We saw that she can go on the attack, and we saw what being governor of Alaska has taught her.

I'm confident as the campaign goes on, she'll have a chance to talk more about abortion.

Ann Hulbert: I think she was counting on the family tableau to make her views clear for the time being.

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Richmond, Va.: I work. I think all Moms should work (at least part time, or when the kids start school, whatever) as an example to kids. But when your underage daughter gets pregnant, it's a sign you need to redirect your priorities back to the family. You need to cut back on work and fix your family. This is the pro-family candidate?

Rachael Larimore: Most of the moms I know do work, and some of them have found creative ways to have a rewarding career that also allows them to spend time with their children. I know other Moms who stay at home but keep their children busy with activities and sports. The wonderful thing about our society is that, aside from the "Mommy Wars" debates that occasionally crop up largely in the media, women in our society are rewarded for doing what appeals to them.

I think it's dangerous to say for one, that a family is "broken" when a teenager gets pregnant and secondly, that a mom needs to cut back on her work. Regarding the first point, the only way to keep teenagers from having sex is to keep tabs on them 24 hours a day. That's not going to help you develop a healthy young adult. As a parent, you have to allow your child some room to grow and learn and make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes have serious consequences, as with Bristol Palin.

No doubt that some teenagers do act out in response to parents who aren't home enough, or who don't become emotionally involved in their kids' lives. But, as much as we've learned about the Palin family in the last week, I don't think we can say what their internal homelife was like, so it's hard to blame Sarah for her daughter's pregnancy.

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Indianapolis: A lot of people keep bringing up the point of whether or not people would raise these same questions if she was a man with the same family situation. But if she was a man then running for VP and going back to work 3 days after a special needs child was born wouldn't be so much against the family-first-religous-right agenda that she is supposed to be specifically reaching out to. And, I can't imagine that at some point, once the newness/novelty wears off sometime in the next couple of weeks, that those family-first-religious right voters wont take a serious look at those contradictions. By the way, I love the XX Factor.

Rachael Larimore: Thanks for your kind words about the XX Factor. we have a lot of fun on the blog.

I think there's no doubt that the religious right was pleased by the nomination and are feeling energized. As to whether that will wear off, we'll have to see. One thing we have to remember is that the conventions took place much later in the campaign than before, and there's only two months until the election.

I'm not a part of the "religious right" so I don't want to speculate too wildly. But I do think that some of the backlash from the left—the nasty rumors that Trig was born to Bristol, not Sarah; the tut-tutting about Bristol's pregnancy; the critiques that she's in way over her head—could make her supporters protective of her.

As strange as it might sound, I think there are a lot of parallels between Palin supporters and Hillary supporters. People have become attached to her quickly and will take umbrage the more she is attacked.

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Emily Yoffe: On behalf of Ann and Rachael, thanks for all your interesting questions. Obviously, this is going to be an extraordinary next couple of months.

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