Todd Palin, The First “Second Gentleman?”

The announcement of Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, has sent shockwaves through the American political arena. Palin introduced herself in her first national speech last Friday as the ultimate working mother: a self-proclaimed “hockey mom” who intends to “shatter the glass ceiling” that Hillary Clinton had managed to splinter just a few months before.

As the mother of five with a special needs infant and a soon-to-be-wed pregnant teenager, Palin is dealing with family issues that would try any mother. Currently, she has managed to juggle all of this while governing the state of Alaska, running seven miles a day, weathering “trooper-gate” and is now stepping up to take on one of the most prestigious posts in our government.

This has caused a lot of people, both Democrat and Republican, to wonder: has she bit off more than she can chew?

Some would argue that a woman shouldn’t have to put her family over her career, woman should be able to “have it all,” and no one would be asking this about a male candidate.

I can’t say that I disagree with any of these statements. What I find curious however, is that Todd Palin, at least so far, is curiously absent from public view.

When most male politicians take major national office, such as the Presidency, their spouses usually follow and are active on the campaign. I’ve always just assumed that the women left their careers to accompany their husband to around the country and eventually to Washington (and if anyone knows of a First Lady or Second Lady who has continued to work outside of DC during their time in office, please jump in).

In light of the demands on political spouses, will Todd Palin choose to leave his career in Alaska to fulfill the duties of “Second Gentleman?”

While some might argue that the Vice Presidency is a secondary role consisting of nothing but luncheons and photo-ops, I think we can all agree that it is more than a 9 to 5 job with minimal flexibility in scheduling.

In response to a post I wrote about balancing work and motherhood a majority of the women who shared their stories touted flexible work schedules and reliable childcare as the best way they found to manage the juggle of full-time work and full-time parenting.

If Sarah is busy fulfilling her political duties, who will step in to take care of her personal ones?

A recent study cited in The Wall Street Journal surveyed a number of female executives about the support they receive from their spouses.

The study shows that what high-powered women prize above all is emotional support — a partner who listens to her and backs her respectfully when she’s angry or upset…

Executive women also valued their husbands’ willingness to help care for family members — picking up children at daycare or tending to aged relatives. One husband raced to the bedside of his wife’s ailing father, comforting him until she was able to get there. It was also important that a husband would step in voluntarily, often without being asked, when the wives had to travel on business or stay late at work.

Most Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates include their spouses in their campaign. They run as a unit–John and Jackie, Ronald and Nancy, Bill and Hillary. On Barack Obama’s campaign website there are selections that allow you to meet Michelle Obama and Jill Biden in addition to their husbands. Michelle and Jill are in the spotlight, whether they want it or not. The same is true for Cindi McCain and now Todd Palin.

Will Todd Palin fully embrace his wife’s candidacy the way other Vice Presidential spouses have? Is he up to the challenge of being the first Second Gentleman? And if so, what effect will his presence have on gender roles in this country?

I guess we’ll just have to wait another 60+ days to find out.

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9 responses »

  1. Is it sexism to ask the question? “America First” or “Family First” Which will it be?

    Governor Palin may be able to take her baby to work with her and nurse during a meeting as Governor of Alaska – a state with a population of 626,000 people. It is a different story being the VP of the United States. I think a woman with children is certainly capable of being the VP or president of the US, but I do question the judgment and “family first” priority of a new mother with a newborn having special needs.

    Her husband, Todd, is employed by BP as an oil field operator and works in Alaska’s Northslope oil fields nearly 1300 miles away from the Governor’s mansion in Juneau, AK. I hardly think he is the one to stay at home with the kids when they are sick or take the the day off for medical appointments. The Alaska media had this to say:

    Mr. Palin goes back to Prudhoe
    by Mike Ross
    Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A decision by Alaska’s first family is raising concerns about a possible conflict of interest involving Gov. Sarah Palin and the oil industry.

    The governor’s husband, Todd Palin, is back on BP’s payroll. Gov. Palin says his return will not influence her decisions involving the oil industry, but one former lawmaker who wrote an ethics guideline for the administration believes it’s a bad move at the wrong time.

    “You know, we’ve never hidden the fact that Todd had a job and he’s created to work,” said the governor. “He wants to keep working…”

  2. Pingback: C-SPAN Convention Hub: Republican National Convention (RNC) – John McCain 2008 » Blog Archive » Todd Palin, The First “Second Gentleman?”

  3. I was wondering the same thing as I watched Palin’s speech tonight. In both Obama’s speech as well as Romney and Giuliani, there were multiple camera shots of Michelle and Cindy. Only two quick shots of Todd during Palin’s speech. I wonder how he really feels about being the potential First Vice-Man…or if McCain croaks, the First Man. If he’s anything like most husbands, he’s going to demand daycare in the Oval Office…

  4. I think it’d be a bit odd to call him the “Second Gentleman” unless there is a “First Gentleman,” which there won’t be. Why not call him the “Second Spouse” instead, to avoid those troubles? Of course, this may all become moot in two months.

  5. I think Palin can afford a nanny, for goodness sakes. IF the Republicans win the election, then we’ll see if her husband continues with his work in Alaska, or goes to Washington with her. But I’m sure they can work out childcare arrangements. Notice how nobody wonders if a MALE candidate can handle family and politics?

  6. I’ve received some comments about my use of the term “Second Gentleman.” Just to clarify, according to both and Wikipedia (which I realize are not true authoritative sources, but were the only ones I could find on the topic) confirm that the Vice Presidential spouse is referred to as the “Second Lady.” Therefore, one would conclude that a male spouse of a Vice President would be referred to as the “Second Gentleman.”

  7. I was watching the “Red State Update” on Youtube and one of the guys said, “Hillary has already cracked the glass ceiling.” The other guy then said, “What’d she do, look at it?”

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