2008 September 06 Saturday
Sarah Palin Unusual Without Male Relative As Leader

Sarah Palin is unusual for a female political leader because most women in top roles have male close relatives who are powerful.

Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, is different from many female leaders around the world in at least one respect – her political career does not follow that of a male relative, according to an expert on women in global politics.

Many female leaders around the world had a family connection to a politically powerful male, said Pamela Paxton, associate professor of sociology and political science at Ohio State University.

“In many countries with traditional cultures, women are easily seen as ‘stand-ins’ for their father or husband,” said Paxton, who is co-author of the book "Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective" (Pine Forge Press, 2007) with Melanie Hughes, a former Ohio State doctoral student now at the University of Pittsburgh. Often, women leaders achieve power when their male relative dies, is martyred, or otherwise is forced to leave office.

“People have generally accepted these female leaders because it was assumed they had the same views and supported the same policies as their father or husband,” Hughes said.

While the United States is “somewhat traditional” in its culture compared to other countries, Paxton said she was surprised that the first female who was a strong contender for president in the United States followed the worldwide model by having a husband who was in politics first.

“Hillary Clinton followed a typical model by following her husband, Bill Clinton. I had expected that the United States would be less traditional, and have a first woman contender who arrived in politics independently.”

Quite a few women in politics road to power as wives and daughters of powerful men. Lois Capps, Democratic Congresswoman for Santa Barbara, took office when her husband died in office. Sonny Bono's wife Mary basically inherited his Congressional seat as well. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Indian independence movement leader Jawaharlal Nehru. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of another Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Megawati Sukarnoputri became leader of Indoneisa and she is the daughter of Sukarno, Indonesia's first president after Indonesia achieved colonial independence.

Certainly Palin isn't unique as a woman in higher office whose husband or father was not already in politics. But she's not typical either.

Half Sigma wonders whether Sarah Palin's IQ might be as low as 110 to 115. He's heavily speculating and he lays out the elements of his assessment. I say we need more data. We really need to know the answer to that question given John McCain's age and the abuse he suffered as a POW which surely accelerated his body's aging and his brain's aging as well. McCain could suffer a stroke in office even if he doesn't die in office. Half Sigma argues candidates should release their test scores and school grades so we can find out how dumb or smart they are.

The substantial brain aging that occurs in the last 15 years of life make me worry about the fitness of John McCain for high office at this point in his life. Brain aging starts to become noticeable via changes in gene expression at age 40. So at age 72 John McCain's got 32 years of brain aging already lowering his intellectual capabilities. The slope of his decline is now steeper than it was in his 40s and 50s. Not a good stage to put him into the White House.

If McCain wins and then dies or strokes out while in office can Sarah Palin handle the job? Keep one thought in mind: Presidents mostly can succeed by not causing damage. Will a President Palin be sufficiently restrained in policy making to not cause damage? The idea is at least plausible.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 06 02:19 PM  Politics Identity

Wolf-Dog said at September 6, 2008 8:05 PM:

It is not so much the mental capacities of McCain but his failing health that worries me. Ronald Reagan had relatively low I.Q. for a president, but he was in unusually excellent physical health even at his old age when he was responsible for important decisions, which were basically given to him by his brilliant advisers. All presidents have high I.Q. advisers around them to help them make decisions. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had very high I.Q. scores, but they were not outstanding as presidents, because their political environment was this way.

If this military tension in Afghanistan and Iran escalates before the elections, then it is possible that Obama will lose the elections because of the stronger image of the incumbent party, as far as defense is concerned. Additionally, the conservative financial circles might want to resort to artificial machinations in order to cause the economy look temporarily better, so that markets rally temporarily between now and the elections, so that the bad economy does not hurt the image of the incumbent party. Historically, with the economy deteriorating so fast, the incumbent party almost always loses, but this year might be an exception...

beowulf said at September 6, 2008 9:59 PM:

Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter were both high IQ engineers and decent human beings. And they were both beaten by lower IQ challengers who had (as Justice Holmes said of FDR) “second-class intellect but a first-class temperament".

Isn't it funny that everyone thinks whatever trait they have is the most important one for a leader to possess? Whether its Halfsigma's concern for high IQ or James Dobson's litmus test of conservative Christan faith or the dad in "A River Runs Through It" who's impressed President Coolidge is a fly fisherman, we all look at what we admire about ourselves as the crucial leadership factor. And yes, I plead guilty to having a first-class temperament. :o)

ziel said at September 6, 2008 10:30 PM:

I don't think Ronald Reagan had a low I.Q. For example, he taught himself to read around age 4, according to his biographer. But he was probably suffering some significant mental slowdown during his presidency. The decline was quite noticeable from his 1976 campaign to his second term. But he still had the common sense that enabled him to have a very successful presidency. McCain's even older, probably not as smart to begin with, and probably more likely to suffer loss of function given the brutal treatment he suffered as a young man.

As far as Palin, I find her to be a remarkably outsized personality and formidable presence in whatever space she is occupying. This leads me to believe she probably isn't that smart, since those other intangible leadership factors should have brought her much further than what she has achieved (up till now). But, who knows, it could be that her priorities in Alaska and her family situation just didn't lead her to any situation where these talents could have shined until she happened to get herself into politics in her local town.

Derek said at September 6, 2008 11:40 PM:

I am not really convinced that higher IQ people actually lead all that well.
I think you lose a bit of your built in instincts about human nature when you are gifted with a higher IQ.
The more you can learn, the less you start off with is the rule in nature.

John, Fitness Austin said at September 7, 2008 5:17 PM:

Reagan has a low IQ? The MSM regard all Republicans as being slow except Nixon who was seen as evil. W had higher grades than Kerry and Gore and higher SAT scores that Bradley. Ike no match for Stevenson but the was the Supreme Allied Commander. George H. W. graduated from Yale in 2 1/2 years.

Alex said at September 7, 2008 6:26 PM:

I've read Ike was smarter than Stevenson, and that Stevenson wasnt even all that smart. Actual events would seem to bear them out, especially Ike's intellect.

They may not make Nixon out to be as dumb as the others but they like to downscale his intellect considerably. That presidential IQ hoax from a few years ago had him higher than the other Repubs but still lower than the Democrats. (It had Kennedy preposterously high, and Clinton was like a 180)

averros said at September 10, 2008 10:49 PM:

> If this military tension in Afghanistan and Iran escalates before the elections...

You mean if it will be escalated by the current administration?

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