10.05.10

My Palin Problem

When Meghan McCain went on her book tour, Palin dominated the conversation. Then the former Alaska gov made it known through a third party she didn’t appreciate McCain’s tell-all.

As my book tour for Dirty Sexy Politics comes to an end, there are a few things that have surprised me about its publication. I expected some backlash from former campaign staffers (check) and a complicated conversation with my father (double check, he didn’t read it until two weeks before it hit stores). What I didn’t expect, however, was that instead of the media concentrating on my admission of almost overdosing on Xanax the day before the election, or my goal for a new “big tent” direction for the Republican Party, or any of the other racier confessions in my book, they only focused on Sarah Palin. In every interview and review it was all Sarah all the time.

Now, I will give you that there is the obvious curiosity about my father’s running mate. And yes, I was there when she was picked, which is documented clearly in my book. But I was on the road for 18 months as opposed to Sarah Palin’s 60 days, which is why more than three quarters of my book is about the part of the campaign before she joined. Only a small portion of the time dealt with Sarah Palin, mainly because I thought that story had already been told and what I added was the small portion of my perspective, which I had been asked about repeatedly over the past year. But none of this seemed to matter, and it surprised me because by all accounts the recent election was one of the most historic in recent memory.

Palin started haunting my book tour from day one when on Good Morning America I interrupted my interview with George Stephanopoulos to tell him, “My book isn’t just about Sarah Palin.” It was a domino effect from there. Backstage at most shows, I would beg producers to keep the Sarah Palin questions to only a portion of the interview, instead of dominating the whole conversation. I found myself fighting to convince people interviewing me that my book was about things other than Palin and interesting for many reasons. All authors have to convince the viewer of an interview that their book is worth reading—but I found myself more than anything just trying to separate myself and my story as far away from her as possible. 

Sarah Palin made it known to me, via an email to a third party, that she was not pleased with me or what I wrote in my book.

Everyone knows there is a media obsession with Sarah Palin, but I don’t know if everyone has quite realized that the obsession has become a fetishization. The further I got into my book tour last month, the more paranoia set in as I started questioning the idea that the only thing that made me interesting to some people was my association with Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin, not my father John McCain. And for that fact, it seems that the only thing that gets any kind of major media attention when it comes to women in politics is either Sarah Palin or her numerous impersonators. These are the people that are creating and dominating the political narrative for women in this country. In the Nashville airport in the midst of my book tour, I picked up the recent “Mama Grizzlies” cover of Newsweek which asks this very question. Why are only women like Sarah Palin getting nominated for elected office and receiving all of the media attention? This is the question that has been plaguing me since the release of my book.

Shushannah Walshe: Inside Palin’s Life in AlaskaAre women only interesting in today’s political discourse if they are Sarah Palin or Sarah Palin impersonators (no matter how bad or poorly knocked off the impersonation is)? Is this it? Is this it for my generation of women for all foreseeable election cycles in the upcoming years? The media has become so obsessed with all things Sarah Palin-related—even dare I say, eclipsing the obsession with President Obama—that they seem more concerned with her versus anything or anyone else. Maybe this isn’t a surprise to everyone in the media, but for me on my book tour it was.

I thought two years after the election there would be something or someone more interesting. But there isn’t, and now the question remains will there ever be? Must we, as Republican women, clone ourselves in every way as Sarahbot’s to have a serious chance of running for office? And if so, what kind of dangerous message is this sending young women? It isn’t that there is anything wrong with Sarah Palin as a politician per se, it is that there apparently isn’t any room for anyone else in 2010 and beyond. The majority of the questions I was asked from the people I met during my book signings were not about Sarah Palin. And this is important to note because it seems that the media’s obsession doesn’t necessarily correlate to what Americans want to know.

Then just as I reached the point where I woke up and elected to stop focusing on the media’s obsession with Sarah and to continue my own one woman revolution (if you will), Sarah Palin made it known to me via an email to a third party that she was not pleased with me or what I wrote in my book. I found it surprising but I had to see the humor and, of course, appreciate the obvious irony. It seems the Sarah Palin media obsession goes both ways. They are both mutually obsessed with one another and the relationship is cyclical. It is the chicken or the egg conundrum. Every tweet of Sarah’s makes headlines and every network puts what she says on its newsfeed. This is the era that we live in, and I’m just hoping both Sarah and the media will at some point make room for other opinions. In the meantime, I won’t hold my breath, but I also won’t quit speaking out for the women who aren’t just imitating her.

Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com. Her new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, was published in August.