Shelly Mandel, president of the National Organization for Women, Los Angeles Chapter, knows what an empowered woman looks like.
Two days ago, Mandel publicly endorsed Sarah Palin for vice president of the United States. At a McCain-Palin campaign rally in Carson, California, Mandel said:
“I’m here today speaking not on behalf of NOW, but speaking as an individual, as a women’s rights activist for 30 years, who has worked for all those years to see this day.
“Let me share with you where I’ve been and why I’m here. I was there in 1977 for IWY. That was the International Women’s Year, in Texas. I was there in 1978 when we campaigned hard all over the West for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, working right alongside my dear friend Maureen Reagan. I was there in 1984, when we worked so hard to get Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket and then to support her historical place in that election.
“And I’m here today, proud to support Sarah Palin, a woman who will fight women’s rights, a woman who will fight for the middle class, a woman who will, Lord knows, shake things up. Now, make no mistake, I’m a lifelong Democrat. I don’t agree with Governor Palin on several issues. Hey, she’s going to work on persuading John McCain on ANWR. Well, I’m going to try persuading her on things of my own.
“But I know Sarah Palin cares about women’s rights. She cares about equality. She cares about equal pay. And, as vice president, she will fight for it. She cares about our children, and she cares about women’s lives. She’s an athlete, and she knows what Title 9 did for girls like her.
“Change must come to Washington, and Sarah Palin has what it takes to lead that charge. I believe she is courageous. I believe she has integrity. And I know that Sarah Palin is a reformer who will break up the old-boy network, buck the system and get Washington back on our side.
“It is an honor to call her sister. America, this is what a feminist looks like, Governor Sarah Palin!”
Democratic beauty. This is the beautiful thing about this presidential election year. We are seeing the political power of women in action. And men. We are seeing the political power of African-Americans in action. And people of all colors and cultures. Conservatives and liberals, rich and poor. If we had doubts about America offering a chance for everyone to be heard, we need only watch this year’s energetic back and forth of ideas and perspectives.
We’re hearing the usual complaints of falsehoods and foolishness on each side of this year’s campaign, but one old complaint is absent. We’re no longer hearing that it’s impossible to be heard.
In the case of Sarah Palin, we have a woman who jumped eagerly into the political jungle and blazed her own trail. She started on the town council of Wasilla, Alaska, then got elected mayor. Then, on her own initiative and leadership, she won election as governor of Alaska. She hadn’t run on a famous husband’s name. On her own gutsy record of fighting the corrupting influence of the oil industry on government, she attracted the attention of maverick Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who chose her as his running mate.
That is a strong woman.
The meaning of NOW. Shelly Mandel is one of few NOW leaders who understands that if NOW is to be true to its commitment against prejudice, it has to stop acting as if NOW stands for the National Organization of Democratic Party Women. If NOW truly advocates a stronger political role for all women, then Sarah Palin would be that organization’s poster woman.
Shelly Mandel knows what a real feminist looks like. It does take one to know one.