Sarah Palin and the F-Word

Sarah Palin is a feminist. Ted Olson is a champion of gay rights. Yet we keep hearing about the demise of progressivism and the American Left.

Maybe the real problem is that the Right is co-opting progressivism for its own ends.

If God, Guns, and Gays were the Republicans’ rallying cries in the Culture War decades, this year the new, tea-party-inflected Rs feature gun-toting feminists and gay-marriage-loving libertarians.

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Whether or not the Democrats take a drubbing at the polls in November, you can’t really argue that the country is beating a straight path to the right.

Is Sarah Palin’s feminism real? Her supporters seem to think so.

Like Phyllis Schlafly before her, Palin promotes a vision of true womanhood that works for her but is not exactly transferable to her less fortunate sisters.

Still, Palin’s “feminism” is not meaningless because it clearly means a lot to her base. It shows how conservative women’s image of themselves has evolved, and how ideas like working motherhood and fathers who help at home—along with a Title IX image of female strength—have completely transformed the culture.

We have also moved beyond dark warnings about “the Gay Agenda.” A whole generation is growing up in a world full of people who are openly gay. Even conservatives have been profoundly changed by gay liberation. Take a look at the pro-gay-marriage argument made by one of conservatism’s brightest legal minds in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

What was most moving was the closing argument of Ted Olson, George W. Bush’s solicitor general and a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, whose compassion for his clients came through poignantly. Their love, he said, trumps government-imposed stigma.

Whatever happens in November, if Republicans win while co-opting the ideals of feminism and gay liberation, it may be a disaster for the Democrats, and even for the country, but it could also be viewed, in the long term, as a landmark of progressive social change.

This is an excerpt from Ruth Conniff’s article in the latest issue of The Progressive. To read the article in its entirety, and to subscribe to The Progressive for a year—all for just $14.97—simply click here.

Follow Ruth Conniff  @rconniff on Twitter

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