NewsWeek: Moderate Voice: The Moderate Voice: Is Sarah Palin a “Victim” of Affirmative Action?

NewsWeek: Moderate Voice

The Moderate Voice: Is Sarah Palin a “Victim” of Affirmative Action?

My dictionary defines affirmative action as: “action favoring those who often suffer or have previously suffered from discrimination.”

Naïvely, I had always thought of affirmative action in terms of the advancement of racial or ethnic minorities (I just found out that I was wrong on this), and as a noble thing (many believe I am wrong on this one).

Dahlia Lithwick, in a provocative essay in this week’s Newsweek, set me straight on the former, and Justice Clarence Thomas has—it seems almost forever—tried to set me straight on the latter.

In “From Clarence Thomas to Palin,” Lithwick links the “perils of affirmative action” from Clarence Thomas to vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

While I do not believe that a justly implemented policy of affirmative action is perilous, I tend to agree with Lithwick on something I had not considered before. That is her view that McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for his running mate—followed by a never-ending Conservative celebration—is in fact an example of affirmative action at the highest level.

When one considers the following points raised by Lithwick, it is difficult to dispute her assessment:

Palin was chosen not because she was the second-best person to run America, but to promote diversity on the ticket, even the political playing field, and to shatter (in her words) some glass ceilings. When she was selected, Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes enthused: “As a 44-year-old woman, Mrs. Palin brings desperately needed diversity to the Republican ticket.”


[Clarence] Thomas hates the notion of flinging the first minority you can lay hold of at a glass ceiling. The McCain campaign elevated it to priority one.


Where Clarence Thomas excoriated liberals for promoting token blacks so America might become a Benetton commercial, John McCain has mastered sthe fine art of turning women into campaign accessories: flag pins with nice calves.

Most of the rest of Lithwick’s interesting essay is devoted to supporting her theory that affirmative action can affix a “crushing stigma” to its beneficiaries—in this case, Clarence Thomas and Sarah Palin.


One Response

  1. The author’s definition of affirmative action is technically correct, but also steeped in stereotypes. AA policies are meant to give qualified individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance. That is, if two candidates are applying for a position and are equally qualified, race, gender, etc. can be used to distinguish among them. In media interview after media interview, Palin has demonstrated in her inexperience for the position, especially compared to someone like Hillary Clinton who was the first viable female presidential candidate. McCain adding Palin to his ticket is less about affirmative action than it is about tokenism and identity politics.

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