What Sarah Palin's hotness means for the campaign

    It’s a Sarah Palin Barbie, dontchaknow? Illustration by Paul Schrodt / North by Northwestern.

    When I think of female politicians, I typically don’t think “hot.” On the contrary, my perception of them is one of hard-nosed, pantsuit-wearing shrews – carbon copies of Hillary Clinton, if you will.Now that’s in no way meant to be misogynistic; I believe female politicians are often crafted that way in order to overcome age-old stereotypes and compete in the male-dominated political realm.But you sure won’t find any posters of Hillary or Nancy Pelosi hanging up in my dorm room.

    During this historic presidential campaign, however, something unprecedented has rocked my world.Yes, Barack Obama became the first African American nominated by a major party for president, and yes, he is arguably one of the most inspirational politicians in recent memory.Hell, he’s the Democratic reincarnation of JFK and MLK – perhaps even with better oratory skills – and his impact on American politics is already substantial.But something far more significant has caught my eye: I’ve found an attractive female politician.

    Sarah Palin is certainly unconventional.She’s a moose-hunting “Jane Six-Pack” from Alaska who woke up one morning and became the Republican vice-presidential nominee.But perhaps more noteworthy is that when Palin accepted her party’s nomination, she effectively became the country’s first attractive female candidate for major office – and a heap of young men across the land suddenly became a lot more interested in politics.

    According to the Web site tracker Hitwise.com, “Sarah Palin” was the most searched-for political term on the Internet since McCain chose her in late August, and she has been the most searched-for political figure on the Internet in the last three years.

    The blogosphere too has been replete with commentary on Palin’s aesthetics.Some blogs, like John P.’s “One Man’s Blog,” have taken the liberty of posting various “hot” pictures of the candidate, and encouraged other viewers to do the same, writing:

    “If you come across any other hot photos please let me know and I’ll add them to the gallery here! And whoever said Politics couldn’t be exciting?!?

    Though John P. has evidently been spending too much time excessively punctuating his blog posts with one hand (and getting off to photos of Palin with the other), he certainly isn’t alone in his over-zealous fascination with the candidate.

    The popular YouTube video, “Red State Update,” featuring Southern yokels Jackie and Dunlap, called Palin “hot as hell.”

    “She’s got that Alaskan librarian, let-your-hair-down, take-her-on-the-tundra thing going on,” remarked Dunlap.The video has been viewed over 370,000 times.

    With all due respect to Geraldine Ferraro and Clinton, Palin is another kind of woman.Whereas many female politicians remind younger male voters of their mothers, the former Miss Wasilla beauty queen is more like your middle-aged yet seductive next-door neighbor – Mrs. Robinson does politics.Sporting glasses, an updo, and above all, executive powers, Palin embodies the ultimate male fantasy: a dominant but feminine authority figure.

    She is virtually untouchable, especially given her status as both a mother and the Republican vice-presidential nominee, but therein lies her appeal.As Slate’s Tom Perrotta puts it, “you get a wink along with the wagging finger.”It’s unorthodox for a vice-presidential candidate, or any politician for that matter, to moonlight as a sex symbol.God knows Dick Cheney and Al Gore certainly never did, and perhaps the closest we ever came was with Dan Quayle (joking).But Palin is inching closer to fulfilling the role, and that could perhaps tip the electoral scale come November.As young undecided males struggle to pick their candidate, they could potentially vote with their other heads and choose the McCain-Palin ticket simply because their libidos tell them to do so.

    Of course there is no statistic of this phenomenon, but allow me to speculate and speak on behalf of my fellow young, undecided, and sexually aroused comrades:

    Politics is an ugly game – especially during election season.Candidates thrust themselves into the ring to do battle with their partisan opponents, and it’s a bloody fight to the end.They argue about putting the country back on the right track, about ending these economically perilous times, about safeguarding us from the terrorist forces that lurk.And to the petrified and skeptical Americans watching at home, it’s not very comforting to see these out-of-touch political androids spewing out SAT words and promising a brighter future.

    Enter Palin.Her beauty is a welcome anomaly in an ugly game, and her folksy colloquialisms add a comforting feminine touch.Who else, in the entire history of political debates, could pull off winking at the camera after saying “darn right” for the umpteenth time that night?

    Following the debate, Rich Lowry, of National Review Online, blogged:

    “I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, ‘Hey, I think she just winked at me.’”

    Of course, Palin and her winks also have their fair share of critics.In response to Lowry, one female blogger commented:

    “I thought Palin’s performance at the debate was downright embarrassing and on top of that I have to read this clown’s blog, stating more or less that Palin gave him an erection?”

    Some people assume she is simply a pretty face whose priorities revolve around looking good (à la John Edwards and his $200 haircut debauchery).Especially since Palin’s political acumen has become the subject of much scrutiny after her disastrous interview with Katie Couric.That, in addition to her minimal political experience, hasn’t helped her cause much.But while her attractiveness may very well exceed her political acumen, maybe all this country needs is a little beauty and some feminine love…

    Or maybe I need to reconsider my priorities.


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