- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008


The victor in the 2008 election was surely not conservatism. It was Peggy Joseph, caught on NBC at an Obama rally the week before the vote, saying if Barack Obama were elected “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. If I help him, he’s going to help me.” The stark, socialistic concept that government’s job is to take care of us, to take money from some to give it to others won the day.

Conservatism — the notion that government’s powers should be limited so that individuals can be unleashed from its oppressive, unnatural constraints to fulfill their potential — lost, no doubt about it. Individual responsibility and initiative, and freedom, itself, lost.

Not only was one election lost, but others down the road promise to go the way of this one as more and more citizens, such as Mrs. Joseph, become dependent on the pernicious, paralyzing beneficence of government. The impact of that victory will be damaging to conservatism, but it will not be fatal. Contrary to popular (liberal) belief, conservatism itself is far from dead. It is woven into the very fabric of our nation, as surely as the words penned by our Founding Fathers are still etched on the parchment beneath a glass case in Washington.

There is an -ism, however, that was dealt a fatal blow over the course of this election: feminism. I am not referring to a generic feminism, or equity feminism, to which all but the most Neanderthal of us subscribe: that women should have equal legal and civil rights as men, which, by the way, is guaranteed by law. I am talking about the death of radical (gender) feminism: the movement that seeks to abolish traditional gender roles and grant civil and legal preferences to women.

The initial hit came early on, from one of radical feminism’s own, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose behavior at every turn seemed to confirm the stereotypes of traditional gender roles that the radical feminist movement sought to obliterate. She cried when the going got tough; she was fickle over issues such as the war on terror and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants; she even softened her pro-abortion stance and came out against gay marriage. To top it all off, she claimed her qualifications for the job came from being the wife of the former president. Mercy. The resulting hue and cry from the feminists? Nil. They were right there with her. It was enough to them that a liberal woman was running for president. They were willing to engage in any hypocrisy necessary to get her to the top.

Then along comes Sarah Palin: to deliver, not intentionally or by frontal assault — but by her very existence — the fatal blow. She has all the attributes feminists claim to value. She is strong, outspoken, independent. Her successful climb to the portals of power comes from her own initiative, not her marriage. She took on the good ole’ boy network — fearlessly - both in the corporate world and political, and she beat them. Not with tears. With determination.

America’s exuberance, particularly that of American women, for a moment, spilled over as this normal, commonsensical, tough and downright pretty lady took center stage. Radical feminists sat silent for a moment, plotting their revenge against the indignity of the rise of a conservative woman.

Sally Quinn said she wasn’t fit because she should be home taking care of her children. (After all these years of feminists saying men should be just as likely to take care of their children.) Gloria Steinem said: “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton,” calling her unqualified. Maureen Dowd takes the cake, saying Mrs. Palin’s story is a “hokey chick flick” starring a “fun zealot” with “a beehive and sexy shoes,” and mocking the only executive experience of any of the candidates as being governor of “an oversized igloo” — instead of acknowledging the genuine statement that Mrs. Palin’s nomination made for women, and instead of defending her from the same sort of attacks they called “misogynistic” when launched against Mrs. Clinton (hear any complaints from feminists when Mrs. Palin was hung in effigy?). The radical feminists piled on, reveling in the attack while ignoring the consequences to their gasping movement.

Their hypocrisy has been exposed, in all its vicious, personal ugliness. This much was obvious: the real crusade of radical feminists is to bash men and advance a flagrantly leftist agenda: not to promote the success of women. If a woman doesn’t walk in lock step with their agenda, she can just forget about it. Not only will she get no help from radical feminists; they will try to destroy her.

But in feminist’s mightiest foe, conservatism found its most powerful voice of the election. This young, dynamic governor seemed to come from out of nowhere. But her voice, for but a fleeting moment, captured that desire in a majority of us, to break free from government’s limitations. To allow common sense and common decency to guide us. That voice reminded us that families should be driving this country, not government and not the out of touch elite. In that voice, and in its resonance with everyday hardworking Americans before the media and the elite worked their mischief, conservatism glimpsed a shining beacon of hope for its restoration.

Kate Obenshain is former vice chairman of the Virginia Republican Party and vice president of Young America’s Foundation.

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