I was very unimpressed with some rumours I read within hours of the announcement that Sarah Palin was running for VP on the McCain ticket: to whit, rumours that infant Trig was in fact not her son but was instead the son of her eldest daughter, and that she had faked her own pregnancy to cover up for Bristol’s premarital sexual experience.
For a start, the rumours to me seemed to be utterly unaware of the variations in people’s pregnancies, and that for most women pregnancy is not a debilitating condition (especially when one is a dedicated runner and superbly physically fit). Someone even said that a pregnant woman would not use an earthy metaphor about guts, as if a growing belly turns every pregnant woman into a swooning belle with an excessively delicate sensibility. This was rightly mocked by some more conservative bloggers who do at least have rather more familiarity with pregnancy than do many progressive bloggers.
So, it’s now been announced that Palin’s daughter Bristol is pregnant – approximately five months pregnant, and planning to marry the father of her unborn child. Infant Trig is four months old. The maths does not compute.
Yes, there are other aspects worth examination and commentary of the narrative surrounding both Palin’s pregnancy with Trig and Bristol’s current pregnancy, especially considering Palin’s documented vociferous opposition to any sex-education other than abstinence-only, but I always knew that this one would come back to bite the rumour-mongers in the arse.
The Obama campaign has made a mannerly announcement wishing the family well and noting that candidate’s families should be off limits anyway. For a family that has been dissected as thoroughly and hostilely as the Obamas have over the past year, this is a generous tack to take. Those of us who remember some of the nastier slings and arrows hurled towards the Bush twins, Chelsea Clinton and earlier Amy Carter might wonder whether it’s futile though, although it would be pleasant to think that commentors might finally show better judgement regarding where the lines are drawn.
However much candidates might wish otherwise, at least some elements of their lives with their families will continue to be examined as part of assessing the candidate’s own character. Because how people relate to their own families is an important part of who that person is, so it’s no wonder that the electorate cares about this stuff. It is relevant, up to a point: a candidate should obviously not be expected to control what the other people in their family choose to do or not to do. Nevertheless a candidate’s reactions to family crises and divisions do provide an insight into the candidate’s character that all the speeches in the world cannot do.
The great big honking dividing line? Analysing responses to family events should not be taken as a license for revelling in scandal. Various bloggers decided to revel in scandal in their speculations about the parentage of infant Trig. It is correct that if it had been proven that Palin had engaged in deception over the pregnancy then it would have been very revealing of certain aspects of her character, although not only in negative ways (many people would have admired such an effort expended to protect the reputation of her daughter). That did not justify some of the revolting sentiments displayed in comments threads – sexist, ableist, bigoted towards rural communities, and simply ignorant (as mentioned above) about pregnancy generally.
Wake up and smell the privilege, Kossacks. Then back the hell off. By concentrating so much on the personal rather than the political you are letting this simplistic conservative candidate get all the inside running, and it’s playing in her favour. That doesn’t help keep McCain out of the White House, dudes. Criticise some of her actual executive decisions and policy positions for a while now, please.