Elizabeth Bumiller and Michael Cooper have a decent article in the New York Times (click here) about what went on behind the Palin decision. Bumiller's more of a court stenographer than a reporter, though, so I don't think she included the whole story. I've been reading and thinking about Palin since the announcement, including watching an extended CNBC interview with her by Maria Bartiromo. (It was taped last week before the decision came down. Given the almost complete focus on energy policy and Alaska's relevance to that debate, I'd say the timing was serendipitous, although I think the show was rushed on the air after the announcement.)
It's quite obvious to me that the Palin selection is about the religious right.
It's no secret they're not crazy about McCain. However, they're also extremely upset with the plutocratic wing that dominates the party leadership. A lot of them feel they're viewed as a bunch of stupid hicks who are only good for their votes. They're as unhappy with the rampant corruption as the rest of us, and they're equally aghast at the efforts to turn the U.S. into a third-world economy.
Howard Dean and others think that once religious conservatives start hurting enough they'll vote their economic interests and start supporting the Democratic Party. They may not be entirely wrong, but few among the religious right would ever vote for a Brahmin type like Obama or Kerry. They're more likely to find their own candidates, people who can balance their social agenda with their economic concerns.
This is who Sarah Palin is. Mike Huckabee was a step in this direction, but Palin, at least in terms of her image, epitomizes it. The religious-right voters are ecstatic over her. She's one of them, she's fought the plutocratic GOP establishment in her own state and won, and she's outspoken in her commitment to balance the goals of big business with the interests of working people and the community. The plutocrats are none too happy about the prospect of people like Palin or Huckabee running the party. Most of that rumbling about a third-party Bloomberg run early this year was in response to the possibility of Huckabee being the GOP nominee.
(McCain is not, in my view, part of the plutocrat faction of the party. My sense of the GOP is that there are three major groups: the religious conservatives, the plutocratic big-business types, and the traditionalist/military bunch. McCain, like Colin Powell and John Warner, belongs to the last one. The plutocrats' favored candidate was Mitt Romney.)
McCain, in one fell swoop, has rallied the religious conservatives around his campaign, and he's sent the plutocrat wing, whose excesses have done so much damage to the Republican brand, to the back of the bus. He's also reinvigorated his maverick image, which had been sagging of late.
The Palin candidacy holds two big traps for the Obama people, and Friday they blundered right into both of them.
The first is making a big deal about Palin's experience. Palin's in the number-two slot, not the number-one, so it's easy to see her as being in a position where she's being mentored. All the Obama people are accomplishing is highlighting the questions of Obama's own inexperience, and, unlike her, he's at the top of the ticket.
The second is the woman question. The misogyny that erupted in response to Hillary Clinton's campaign--which the Obama campaign was fully complicit with--was one of the ugliest things I've seen in politics in my lifetime, and I think it hurt Obama badly. There are a substantial number of Clinton supporters (including me) who want nothing to do with him, and this was a major contributing factor. Choosing Palin is not going to win Democratic women over, but if she gets hit with the same spew that Hillary did, it's going to reopen the wounds of the primary campaign, and many Democratic women may either stay home or vote for McCain in protest. Directly or indirectly characterizing Palin as the VPILF, or engaging in obnoxious speculation about her children (this has gone way beyond Bristol Palin's announced pregnancy) will backfire. The speculations about her kids have gotten so bad that Obama himself has been compelled to come out and tell people to leave Palin's family alone.
The only way to engage Palin is on the issues, and Democratic partisans are handling even that badly. It's one thing to criticize Palin for her views, but to attack McCain for picking her because of them is just silly. This choice was for the Republican nominee for Vice-President, and McCain picked a popular representative of one of the key factions of his party; after reading people like Jeralyn Merritt over at TalkLeft.com, one would think they were expecting McCain to nominate Lincoln Chafee. The attacks on Palin's conduct as Alaska's governor have been stupid as well.
This "Troopergate" scandal being hawked by Whoever Kidnapped Josh Marshall and others only makes Palin look good. Palin's goal, however inappropriately she went about it, was to fire a cop who, by his own admission, had been drinking and driving on duty, and worse, had deliberately Tasered his ten-year-old stepson. I think it's safe to say most people want cops like that fired, and that there's something seriously messed up about a system that thinks the appropriate penalty is to suspend him for five days. As one commenter noted after reading about Marshall's silliness, it's way past time to pay the ransom and get the real Josh back.
Democrats need to realize that John McCain is looking at all of this and laughing his head off. He knows he made the right choice. He's rallied his base and sent the opposition off the deep end. From a political standpoint, what more could he ask for?
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I have some thoughts about the possibly positive direction the ascendancy of Sarah Palin could mean for politics in this country, and I hope to get into those in the Wednesday column. She may represent a movement among the religious conservatives that is worth encouraging, especially if, like me, you accept that they're here to stay. And no, I do not advocate anyone voting for her.
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A NOTE ABOUT THIS POST
I'm not as ahead of the curve news-wise as elements of this post may suggest. One of the idiosyncrasies of Blogger is that the posting date and time are when the post starts being written, rather than when it's published. This post reflects Monday news because it was completed Tuesday morning. I'm sorry for any confusion.