Friday, August 29, 2008

Who is Sarah Palin?

After what can only be described as a stirring Democratic National Convention, the McCain Campaign has made its bid to steal the rising thunder of the press. They have gone completely off the board, and chosen the 44-year old Governor of Alaska as the nominee for Vice President. Sarah Palin will be the first female GOP VP candidate in history, and only the second from one of the two major parties. No doubt political pundits and observers nationwide are scratching their collective head over this decision. What exact purpose does this choice serve? What subtle demographic shifts have the analysts discovered that make this a good idea? How will the public react to this unknown quantity?

As far as what this selection does for McCain, we have to look at the expectations the wannabe executive has for his electoral viability. You'd have to have your head in the sand not to have heard the ample speculation regarding the recent rift in the Democratic Party. Obviously there are quite a few discontented Clinton fanatics that the Republicans dream about plucking for the November vote. After the last few days, the big mystery is how many of those folks actually exist that could turn their disappointment into support for McCain. Perhaps (the thinking goes) Palin will appeal to women who'd like to see the glass ceiling finally shattered. But how many female voters can't see beyond gender? And what do they have in common with Palin?

The main stumbling block for any Clinton-fan is going to be Sarah Palin's strenuous opposition to choice. She is adamantly against abortion, and even knowingly birthed a son with Down's Syndrome earlier in the year. Her credentials must certainly appeal to a constituency with which McCain has a very troublesome relationship. The Christian Right must find some succor in the fact that Palin is also against gay marriage, a member in good standing of the National Rifle Association, and the former head of her alma mater's Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Still, she used the first veto of her governorship to block legislation that would have barred the state from extending same-sex partner benefits to its employees (ed. note: Or so Wikipedia said earlier in the day. The story here has since changed... and now the site says that she supported a referendum for a constitutional amendment barring benefits to same-sex couples. For whose benefit has the history changed?)

In her role of Alaskan chief executive, Palin has been associated with fighting for ethics reforms. In a state known for its widespread corruption among its Republican leadership, Palin has called politicians like former Governor Frank Murkowski and Senator Ted Stevens to task. She has consistently fought against pork-barrel spending (ed. note: whenever national media started focusing on it- see her initial support of the Gravina Island Bridge, and how she kept the federal funds after she decided it wouldn't be built) and has made efforts to underscore her "independence" (ed. note: quotes added... see comments below) from big oil (despite being betrothed to a (former?) employee of the BP Corporation). Her perceived integrity and her rigorous approach to life outside of politics (she goes on moose hunts, ice fishes, and rides a snowmobile) have increased her popularity in her home state. Her approval ratings hover in the 80-90% range.

But one wonders how any of this will translate in the larger arena. Is America ready to put a woman (with almost no significant experience) just a malignant melanoma away from the Oval Office? No doubt her history of being a Miss Alaska runner-up, a sports reporter, and a mayor of a backwoods town of approximately 5500 people will seem charming to those who drink the Kool-Aid. Yet she seems like an awfully odd pick for a campaign that has perpetually stressed its opponent's so-called lack of meaningful experience. Perhaps they think that a little bit of her minority magic can rub off on the old man? It's hard for me to believe that she is going to make a big difference in this race. I can't wait for her debates with Joe Biden.

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17 Comments:

Blogger Dagrims said...

She's also a creationist, which is a huge strike against her in my book. I believe this was an absolutely terrible choice for VP. Should an illness or death befall McCain, which is not an unlikely proposition given his advanced age, she would be governing the country, which I don't see her as being any more qualified for than the head of the Orlando City Council. Knock Obama's experience if you must, but he's had 15 years of state and federal experience and went to Harvard. He's also emerged victorious in an extremely difficult primary battle. Palin? Mayor of a town with a population under 6,000 and governor of one of the least populous and least representative states in the entire union.

This was an awful decision.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. What they attempted to do in their choice might just well move moderate Republicans to the other side. I don't think he would have lost Republican votes choosing another moderate...this does not bode well for a candidate that starts in the hole numberwise to begin with. Their ability to continue to pick on Obama for his lack of experience has just taken a big hit.

Let me be the first to congratulate you on to very early prediction in this election.

JG

9:08 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

It's interesting that you guys see this pick as a liability for the ticket. It seems to have energized the Christian Right, which is a constituency that McCain has been increasingly courting.

It's also strange just how quickly information is filtering out about her- Wikipedia has changed significantly throughout the day. Not only is she a creationist, but she is on record as saying that she doesn't believe global warming is the result of man's actions. She appears less and less "independent" of big oil, as she would have folks believe.

For one thing, she bemoaned the Bush decision to categorize polar bears as endangered because she was afraid that it would hurt the prospect of increased oil drilling in Alaska. She is wholly committed to opening ANWR to drilling, and prefers that over pursuing any type of alternative energy.

And as for her opposition to the Gravina Bridge earmark- she initially supported it, until it became a nationwide symbol for ridiculous earmarks. She even kept the money that Alaska had already received for it. It turns out that rumors of her "fiscal responsibility" were very much exaggerated.

It's also now being said that she "supported a non-binding referendum for a constitutional amendment to deny benefits to homosexual couples". There seems to be a push online to scrub her history to make her appeal even more to right wing zealots.

Finally, husband Todd has become (within the last 24 hours online) a "former" employee of BP. Hmmmm...

3:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merge,

It may be true that he has "energized" the Christian Right. The problem with that is that the Christian Right cannot carry a national election, and there may well be a segment of that constituency that will not see ANY 44-year old woman as their ideal of the head of the country. Sad, but true.

Perhaps a big stumbling block resulting from this selection will be the Republicans continuing ability to cite Obamas's lack of experience (i.e.; style over substance), given that of their VP candidate.

Our discussion over the newspaper this morning was visualizing who I'd could see sitting down negotiating with Putin, Obama or Palin.

It's going to be a very interesting race, and that could be fun to watch.

jg

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please forgive the several grammatical errors in that post...I need another cup of coffee.
jg

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Creationist stuff is really nuts, I must admit.

As far as her advocacy of "big oil", one must admit that oil is the single biggest industry in Alaska and almost everyone is for it. If it hasn't changed, I think the average resident recieves a check from oil revenues and doesn't pay a state income tax. This is powerful stuff.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

JG,

Don't you think that the Christian Right carried the election in 2004? That's why so many states put the "gay marriage" referendums on their ballots. Who, among those who voted for Bush in 2004, is not going to vote for McCain? As long as the candidate is pro-life, they will vote for them- the Down's Syndrome kid that is looking to be used as a political tool will testify to her commitment to "Christian values".

The right wing hacks will continue to talk about Obama's lack of experience and dare the Obama people to come back with an attack against Palin for the same thing... pointing out that Barack's got the number one spot. I heard this from four different conservative commentators on the radio already. They already have their Rove-ian talking points in hand.

Kool-aid drinkers are not going to question the party line on Palin. If she's good enough for Limbaugh and co., she's good enough for them.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

Absolutely it is in Alaska's best interest to have a federal government committed to living and dying through the fossil fuel paradigm. It makes perfect sense from their standpoint. But what does Palin offer the other 49 states?

1:47 PM  
Blogger Torn ligament said...

I doubt Palin on the ticket will cause Hilary's supporters to vote for Mc Cain. The only reason being because she's a woman? By the time November rolls around Hilary's supporters, will stay with Hilary (the party.

That some of the right wing (comments from Althouse blog) think this is a fabulous move is their relief as McCain's campaign had pretty much run out of steam.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

torn ligament,

I'd like to believe that's true. It's going to be difficult to parse the actual effect, because of the unknown quantity of "Operation Chaos" voters that supported Hillary in the primary election.

Those folks on "althouse" are simply looking for validation from each other and the board. That's an understandable motivation within reactionary "conservative" circles.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Torn ligament said...

Palin is the anti Hilary. The Hilary supporters who were in it for her won't be able to bring themselves to vote for McCain.

In fact, I think the cynical but clever, choice of Palin will help the disgruntled HRC supporters get over themselves pretty quickly and get on board with BO.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Yeah, I guess ultimately the choice says a lot for the judgment of John McCain. He's staked a lot on trying to appeal to women voters, but at the same time he's tried to appeal to the Christian Right by picking a rabidly anti-choice running mate. He seems to have a lot of confidence that he can fool "all the people all the time".

The most amusing byproduct of this spectacle is the legions of folks who've just discovered their "feminist" leanings. Absolutely priceless.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Torn ligament said...

Hilarious, yes. They'll implode the first time someone claims Palin is 'shrill'.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alaska. Cold State, Hottest Governor

Actual bumper sticker

Well, she did look good in that pageant runnerup photo.

I will say this, I hope she'd be considerable more visible that Dick Cheney, or else what would be the point?

I'm reserving judgment on her capabilities until I see and hear more of her, though she's starting at a very low on the scale of qualified to be V-P, much less a President.

jg

10:19 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

jg,

I don't understand the hype regarding her looks. She has a drag queen quality that turns me off. But it's interesting that the GOP is trying to pimp her off as every conservative boy's stroke toy, and at the same time trying to sell her as a "feminist".

They also seem to be embracing political correctness. Apparently her fitness as a mother is not to be called into question, despite the fact that they are running her on a "family values" plank.

It must be hard being a GOP strategist, having to speak so blatantly out of both sides of one's mouth. They need someone that appeals to the Christian Right, but at the same time they'd like to have what they deem to be an "attractive woman" that middle and working class white men can fantasize about.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard or read anything about them trying to attract men through her looks, but I suppose it's possible. Have you ever looked at a group photo of the Senate, House ot the Governors? I mean, it's all relative. :-)
jg

3:14 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

It's all about image-making. Trust me on this one. Or alternatively... check out this joker's post...

link

3:50 PM  

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