Some further thoughts on Sarah Palin

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I realize now that I’ve misinterpreted the nomination of Sarah Palin. When the story first broke, I was horrified and insulted that McCain would think so little of his honor and his country to nominate someone so vastly unqualified for the job. The idea that McCain, 72, feeble and approaching senility, would put this coarse, dim-witted monster a heartbeat away from the presidency was the final blow to my respect for him.free stats

At the time, it seemed like Sarah Palin was McCain’s attempt to gather votes from disaffected Clinton supporters, and in that regard she was an insult of the highest degree, the notion that Clinton supporters would be so stupid as to vote for any woman, regardless of her neanderthal policies. Since then, partly though the courtesy of some of my readers here, I’ve learned that the purpose of nominating Palin was not primarily to lure Clintonites but to energize the Republican base, the evangelicals and fundamentalists, the anti-choice, anti-science, anti-compassion hard-liners whose only argument with Bush/Cheney is that they didn’t pursue their agenda strongly enough.

I now understand that, to a liberal, Sarah Palin is a crippling nightmare because she stands an excellent chance of becoming president, but to the Republican base, she’s an electrifying dream — because she stands an excellent chance of becoming president. McCain isn’t "throwing the base a bone" by nominating one of them to a powerless office, he’s extending hope to the base, who strongly disliked him before but will now come out and vote for him in droves in the hope that McCain will, in fact, die and office and give them the president they really want.  To the majority of the country, McCain’s message is "You better hope I stay alive in office," but his message to "the crazies" (Rove’s term, not mine) is "Hey, you never know, I’m an old, old man."

Comments

72 Responses to “Some further thoughts on Sarah Palin”
  1. clayfoot says:

    Not because he will die in office, but because he will prep her to succeed him after he leaves office.

    • Todd says:

      I don’t think there’s much chance of a radical on the level of Palin to succeed on her own terms, now or four years from now. On the other hand, politicians do change their spots when it suits their lust for power.

    • clayfoot says:

      That, and, unlike Obama, she actually has some executive experience.

      • Todd says:

        Please, let’s not start with the “executive experience” canard — it’s an insult, a talking point made up by the RNC to distract from the fact that Palin is utterly unsuited to the job. You can do better than that.

        • mcbrennan says:

          By her own standards, McCain has no “executive experience” either. Maybe he should try running for dogcatcher first.

        • clayfoot says:

          I suppose, but I’m not really that big a fan of her or of McCain. I’m actually looking for some reason, however small, to vote either Democratic or Republican, since even my Libertarian party candidate is frankly scary.

          • If only we got a sane one.

          • Anonymous says:

            fascinating

            As a far lefty I never cease to be fascinated by those in the middle who could go either way (not to diminish the candidacy of the Libertarian candidate, as I voted for Nader). I beg you to make a list of the issues you care about and the candidates’ stances on each, and vote for whomever you agree with more. I can’t bare the thought of people voting based on who looks better, who talks better, who makes up the best verbal slams of the opponent, etc.

  2. rjwhite says:

    Oh dear. It’s sort of like the religious right’s support of Israel, then.

    • brandawg says:

      I wish someone would explain that point of view to me because I never understand the undying love for Israel.

      • rjwhite says:

        Some sort of nuclear escalation there will hasten an apocalypse, which will then clear the way for the rapture and the return of Jesus Christ. Seriously. That is the theory.

        • noskilz says:

          I’m sure there are a variety of factions of supporters, but to some evangelical sects who are big fans of the apocalypse, Israel is key to that worldview – although if one follows that line of logic, it will kind of suck for any non-christian locals. There’s a fair amount of money and logistical support for helping things along ( stuff like this settlement assistance program strike me as bleakly hilarious – sort like trying to achieve a critical mass on the J-bomb that will end the world.) Just a few years back I was invited along on a Israel-Petra trip (think “Ernest P Worrel’s Innocents Abroad” – my fellow travelers came from a variety of backgrounds and seemed nice enough, but most seemed to be of the rapture-ready persuasion) and I really got the impression that the Israeli government was actively encouraging this kind of thing.

          On one hand, I don’t think the Israelis are risking any supernatural hazard in cultivating these fans, but those supporters have their own agendas and their carte blanche support has its own complications(people who encourage one to do foolish or self-destructive things will tend to do more harm than good.)

          Just another illustration of the way buying into a premise can produce all sorts of odd implications without having to resort to actual insanity, I suppose ( and hasn’t the last eight years been riddled with flawed premises and their aftermath?)

      • avferreira says:

        Another theory I’ve heard is that they want to keep in good terms with Israel so that they can help find the Arc of the Covenant, which will bring about the end of all non-believers and the reinstatement of Jerusalem as the throne of the world.

      • clayfoot says:

        Israel is a consistent, if unhelpful, ally in the region. That partly explains why Israel has been one of the largest recipients of foreign aid since 1970, mostly in the form of military aid.

        • Anonymous says:

          Uh..as a taxpayer, I would beg to differ: Israel is one of the largest recipients of foreign and military aid, without which they wouldn’t have any feasible economy (certainly selling military consultants and weapons etc…) And that is why they remain “consistent”. Ask them about their consistency when there the funding is cut to what most countries the size of Rhode Island get…

      • malsperanza says:

        There are 3 or 4 reasons, I think.

        Others have described the evangelical crusade to keep control of the Holy Land out of the hands of Infidels. Not by accident did Bush use the word “crusade” in his post 9/11 War on Terror speeches. Evangelicals view Jews as potential Christians: the unsaved, unenlightened, childlike forerunners of the true faith. Jews will be converted on the day of the Second Coming, so they are lovable albeit misguided. (Especially since it is no longer cool to call them other things). But Muslims, who came after Christ and rejected his word, will go straight to the Bad Place. They are unredeemable. I don’t think the religious aspect of conservative support for Israel is the main reason–it’s just very visible right now because the evangelical voice is so dominant in the GOP during this campaign. And it’s the most colorful aspect of it.

        Israel has always been our most reliable client state in the Mideast. Until 1979 we had Iran, but that little deal went south. The war in Iraq is in part an attempt to replace Iran with a new non-Israel (i.e., oil-producing) client state. From that pov the war in Iraq is doing just fine, since the new administration there is dependent on the US for its survival. But the Arab world is never wholly committed to US interests (for some reason), even though we woo the Saudis and Egypt like crazy. So Israel remains a strategic base for the US. This is in part a holdover from the Cold War, when the Mideast was the back door to the USSR. And of course we currently have a Secretary of State who bases all her policies on her deep expertise as a Sovietologist.

        Then there a bloc of Jews in the US who vote on one issue only: preserving Israel. There is money to be made from that group, and some votes the GOP thinks it can snag. Joe Lieberman is supposedly the fellow who will deliver them. Quid pro quo, Clarice.

        Lastly, did I mention that thing about Muslims being evil?

  3. richaje says:

    I think that is a pretty reasonable analysis of the role the Palin nomination. I am very curious in the results of the polling and focus groups that are being done in Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania – although neither campaign is likely to release that data. As I said yesterday, a very shrewd choice by McCain.

    • Todd says:

      I knew I could count on you to back me up. The weird thing is, I haven’t seen anyone else mention this, and I surf some pretty “angry left” websites. As you suggest, the key here is not to win the nation, or even to win a majority, but to get out the vote in the 2 or 3 percent of each borderline state that will tip it in McCain’s favor. I admit it’s shrewd, but it sure doesn’t improve my opinion of McCain.

      • richaje says:

        FWIW, a lot of political commentary (on both the left and right) is largely cathartic (when it is not merely a rote repetition of a political group’s talking points) and not terribly insightful. This election – like the last two – will be very close and likely will come down to a few percentage points in a few key states. That’s not a very easy narrative to tell and so it largely gets ignored in favor of more sweeping statements.

        IMO, McCain’s biggest weakness thas been the lack of enthusiasm for him in what is the most electorally important voting group of the GOP coalition – and I think it is pretty safe to say that lack of enthusiasm no longer exists. That may not improves your opinion of McCain but it likely improved his chances of winning in November.

        So Urbaniak – still offering that DVD? I can’t get them here in Berlin, and I somehow doubt Palin is going to get pulled off the ticket….

  4. avferreira says:

    I think you’re right. I was just reading on another lj that some so-called Christians are actually praying (and encouraging others to do so as well) for God to allow McCain to be elected and then “smite” him so that Palin can be president.

    • Todd says:

      It seems odd that a politician would run on the platform of “Vote for me, I might die in office,” but we’ve seen this year that there is no bottom to McCain’s drive to power.

      • richaje says:

        I don’t think (any statistically significant portion number of) evangelical voters are hoping McCain dies – but there does seem to be a broad assumption amongst many conservative activists that he will be a one-term president (in fact many were hoping he would come out and say he would serve only one term). And as a sitting VP, Palin would be a shoe-in to win the GOP nomination…

  5. Quick observation regarding the political posts: There are a lot of good reasons for disliking a lot of politicians, and much of the time you acknowledge them, but I’d steer clear of using the “My Opponent Does X Because He’s Evil” argument too often.

    • Todd says:

      I don’t say McCain’s evil, I say that he’s joyfully squandered all his honor and credibility. That’s a pretty tall order for a well-liked, accomplished politician to pull off.

      On the other hand, Palin bans books — that’s about as evil as it gets in my book.

      • shekb says:

        On the other hand, Palin bans books — that’s about as evil as it gets in my book.

        [Palin bans your book]

      • clayfoot says:

        Heartfelt agreement about McCain, and such a disappointment. He seems to have simply disavowed so many of the things that made him a likable candidate, or even a likable person.

      • greyaenigma says:

        For me it’s the anti-compassion bit that makes her evil.

        Of course, it’s the anti-science, anti-reality aspect that makes my skin crawl most.

        And none of that would bother me as much if it were just her, ranting on the gutter, but the crowd was loving it. They drank up her vitriol like precious, sweet nectar. Granted, it’s the RNC, but still…

      • What I mean is that I think you’d be better off criticizing the consequences of your opponents’ policies rather than their motives.

        Much of the time you analyze the reasons why someone acted in a certain way (The Republicans chose Palin to energize the anti-choice, anti-science, anti-compassion hard-liners for example*) without explaining why you think that’s a bad thing or what specific criticisms you have of those groups and what you base those criticisms on.

        I think motives are important, but I’d rather hear your arguments against the policies (and their consequences) those motives drive.

        *or, from another post: Senator John McCain, in addition to being a liar, panderer, cheat and moral vacuum, apparently has a problem with eligibility.

        • Todd says:

          “Much of the time you analyze the reasons why someone acted in a certain way…without explaining why you think that’s a bad thing or what specific criticisms you have of those groups and what you base those criticisms on.”

          If you need to have it explained to you why an anti-choice, anti-science, anti-compassion candidate is “a bad thing,” I’m afraid we’re further apart than I thought.

        • Anonymous says:

          I can sort of see what you mean here, but I think in this case, Mr. Alcott’s entirely justified to level these criticisms. They certainly sound vehement, and possibly even knee-jerk, but they’re based on firm foundations.

          And sure, I’ll step up and explain my specific criticism of Palin’s policies.

          Anti-choice: Palin strongly opposes abortion (which I don’t believe should be anyone’s first, second, or third resort, but I believe it should be legal) and supports abstinence-only education. Multiple studies have shown that abstinence-only education has no effect whatsoever on reducing teen pregnancy. So, apparently, do the circumstances surrounding Gov. Palin’s daughter. I believe abstinence should be a big part of any sex-ed curriculum, but leaving out information about contraceptives is like sending our troops into combat with only half the necessary body armor. And we’d never do that, right?

          Anti-science: Palin believes that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools. Strangely, she does not also believe that science should be taught alongside religion in churches. Funny about that.

          Anti-compassion: Palin cut funding for a shelter that would have given unwed teenage mothers a temporary place to stay, and training to be better parents. I mean, if you’ve gotta have some sort of welfare state, and if you’re not going to teach kids about contraception or encourage them to use it, surely unwed, homeless teenage moms with new babies are a deserving demographic for government support?

          — N.A.

  6. I had a very similar thought this morning, reflecting on her speech last night. To the hardcore Republican base, experience only matters as a talking point (“Obama doesn’t have enough experience to be President.”), but they really don’t care about experience. They don’t care about a candidate’s past (or present) foibles, either. I mean, they’ll get in a huff over those things if a Democrat’s involved, but what trumps all of those is “this person is someone I can relate to.” It’s what got Dubya so many votes in 2000 (“He’s someone I can imagine having a beer with.”) and it’s what’s firing up the base over Sarah Palin. “She shares my values and she’s a down-to-earth mom.” Plus, the hardcore Republican base imagine themselves to be persecuted–by elite Democratic liberals, by the mainstream media–so every time Palin is attacked, it reinforces the base’s view of reality. “We’re persecuted because of our common sense, traditional values, and look, they’re going after Sarah Palin because she’s like us!”

    I’m starting to think getting Palin on the ticket was a political masterstroke in terms of getting McCain in good with the base. Of course, in terms of wooing independents and disaffected Hillary supporters…probably not so much.

    • richaje says:

      Disaffected Hillary voters – no, although if McCain can get even 15% of them he wins. Independent voters (ie, voters who dislike both parties and switch between parties – think your Perot voter or your Ventura voter) – she may help more than you might think.

    • charlequin says:

      I don’t think one should underestimate the pull of having someone who’s a “hockey mom and the mother of a son in Iraq — just like me!” Bush won twice squarely on the back of self-identity politics like this and Palin obviously shores up McCain’s campaign in this particular area.

      I’m glad that the left seems to be slowly figuring out what’s actually going on instead of smugly making fun of Palin (or worse, going back to the sexist well that a few people made a lot more people look bad by dipping into during the primaries.) Of course McCain knew about her daughter’s pregnancy — that pregnancy makes her actively more desirable because it reaffirms her pro-life stance and shows that her family will follow the evangelical script to a T (semi-forcefully marry the daughter off to the 17-year old father, etc.)

  7. richaje says:

    FWIW, for those of you who are true connoisseurs of political speechmaking, Palin’s presentation yesterday reminded me an awful lot of the “Checkers” speech of 1952 – in a surprising number of ways.

  8. marcochacon says:

    Palin is a canny pick. I’ve thought so from the moment I heard it. It’s not that she’s inherently a strong leader-candidate–I mean, she has a raft of weaknesses–it’s how she simultaneously reinforces McCain’s brand while electrifying the base. It’s one of those incredibly synergistic things that you usually just can’t see coming.

    If McCain *did* see it coming then he’s a force to be reckoned with indeed–more likely, IMO–she appealed to him because she purports to be the same kind of politician he is (anti-corruption … never mind the record, religious, 2nd-Amendment champion, straight talker, down-to-earth). The fact that she has God, guns, and babies on her side of the ticket is incredibly powerful.

    More disturbingly: she will appeal to middle class Americans in small towns. She will appeal to working mothers because essentially, she is one of them. To work against her the Dems will need to attack her carefully and expertly on her issues–not her character. Attacking her character as the various scandals have done (I’ve seen a spine-chilling reference to “broken water-gate”) makes her stronger. It rallies her base and makes the Democrats and media pundits look small and misogynistic.

    If Obama’s campaign underestimates her she’ll eat them for breakfast.

    -Marco

    • Todd says:

      From what I understand, she doesn’t appeal to McCain at all — he didn’t want her, the party forced her on him. Which then goes back to judgment, and character.

  9. sbrungardt says:

    I really wish Obama had chosen a female VP. While Biden is good, I think a woman on the side of the Democrats, not even necessarily Hillary (and there are plenty of other potentials), would have been a stronger choice. Certainly would’ve stolen some of the GOP’s luster with this one.

  10. craigjclark says:

    The thought of Palin as president gives me the heebie jeebies in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

  11. stormwyvern says:

    Not that I don’t respect and agree with your political insights, but given that I am pretty sure I can no longer turn on my toaster without reporters and pundits somehow using it to communicate their thoughts on the latest developments in the presidential race, I could really use an update on how Tom Hanks is doing in his search for Matt Damon.

    • Todd says:

      Does that mean you support gay marriage?

      • stormwyvern says:

        Sure. I’m a liberal. I live in Massachusetts. My father once got so fed up with Mitt Romney (back when he was our governor and angling for a future presidential nomination) that he suggested the man have a gay marriage with himself.

        So, about Private Ryan…

  12. jedisoth says:

    I guess I’m not as politically saavy as some of my Republican-voting “brothers and sisters” ’cause when I heard McCain picked Sarah Palin for his VP, my first response was “Who?” OK, so now I know she’s the Alaskan Governor.

    Meh, I still don’t like McCain. I haven’t been this unenthused about my choices as a Republican-leaner since I didn’t care who was President before I could vote.

  13. matt_sturges says:

    I shared your confusion until I heard Peggy Noonan’s open-mike incident about how the Repubs “went for this political bullshit about narratives.”

    The republicans in the age of Rove understand that electing candidates is not a question of policy, but of narrative. Consider that we don’t really know anything about the decisions that Palin has actually made (note Tucker Bounds’s steadfast refusal to name a single decision that Palin has made in her much-touted role as “commander-in-chief” of the near-to-Russia Alaskan National Guard when asked on CNN). The Republicans have become excellent at crafting these narratives, understanding that a lot of the votes that matter in an election like this come from swing voters — read, people without a clear political focus — and these voters are less interested in a candidate’s voting record than they are in a compelling story that resonates with their worldview. The party doesn’t give a shit about what Clinton voters think because they know that the legions of pro-choice Hillary voters would vote for the proverbial yellow dog before they’d vote for the new McCain. So what they do instead is craft this image that candy-coats radical rightism in a friendly, mom-like persona — thus reassuring the wingnut base and simultaneously appealing to the voter who pulls the lever based solely (or primarily) on a candidate’s personal appeal.

    It’s brilliant in an Orwellian sort of way.

    • richaje says:

      Not to quibble but both parties know to elect your candidate – particularly at a national level – requires a good narrative. Neither party uses a tactic that the other doesn’t use (their electoral coalitions differ, but both have the same techniques to appeal to their target audience). Each has some institutional allies that the other covets (the GOP has talk radio, the D’s have the NYT and MSNBC), each has a key demographic group that is easy to mobilize (the GOP has evangelical Christians, the D’s have labor unions), each has a mirror-image fundraising base. It is not surprising that both political parties are so evenly matched (neither party has cracked 51% of the popular vote since 1988).

      • matt_sturges says:

        No, it’s a valid quibble — I just think the Republicans are much better at it. My guess is that they’ve been forced to perfect this strategy since they have to appeal to two very different bases in order to succeed: the hardcore conservatives on the one hand and the evangelicals on the other. The agendas of the old-school conservative (less government, fiscal conservatism) ought be mutually exclusive from those of evengelicals (hefty government intervention on social issues), but the Rovians have very skillfully managed to appeal to both factions, despite their apparent contempt for the evangelical worldview. We Dems, on the other hand, tend to be on the same page, so the message is easier to craft. Just a thought.

        • richaje says:

          I’m not sure who is better at it – probably which ever one has the more talented politician (or team) at the head. You might be right about the D’s being more ideologically cohesive, although if that is true it means that there has been a fundamental change in the Democratic party along the lines of the transformation of the GOP into the conservative party over the period from 1964-1994 (prior to that there was a liberal wing AND a conservative wing in both parties).

  14. chatoyant_1 says:

    When I look at that pic now, after having heard Palin speak, I can’t help but wonder in a contrast: what does an obviously capable, African-American woman like Condoleeza Rice see in her party now. Did she ever imagine being a contender?

    The RNP never surprises when it comes to foreign policy. War and war service is not a substitute. But I can’t believe they brought back into play Evil Empires…

    There was an interesting point made on one of the European TV stations recently, suggesting if it is really a common factor among the democracies to brag or insist on the importance of a top-position candidates military experience. It’s hard to compare as election-systems and top gov’t positions are different, but there is an issue as to how many, or which Prime Ministers hammer on about Evil and who wears flag-lapels, etc…

  15. dan_oz says:

    Combative politics

    What amazes me about modern politics is how much the issues and the personalities involved can get trampled underneath a purely “Us vs Them” mentality. People will ignore relevant entries like voting histories while they happily dive head-first into the pit of “Who they’d like to have a beer with.” Who you’d like to have a beer with inevitably INVOLVES beers, and (to me) many of the election debates and news stories certainly resemble a pair of drunks arguing over who’s better … the Steelers or the Lakers. Anyone NOT drunk who is listening to that conversation can’t help but be struck by the adamant insistence of each side that THEIR team is the best, while simultaneously wondering what the possible POINT of the conversation is.

    This is why the Palin nomination is such a great move. It strikes a huge “Us” chord with so many people. McCain, himself, is now firm in his place as the Republican nominee – so he brings on someone with a tremendous amount of unspecific personal appeal. She’s kinda hot, she’s creationist, she’s anti-abortion … go down the line and most Republicans will find a few things to which they can attune. Once that happens – it’s all “Us vs Them.” Each time They attack anything about Palin, it draws Us closer together. It doesn’t matter what They’re actually SAYING, it just matters that Sarah Palin is an Us … and we can’t stand for attacks on Us. That’s un-American!

    As soon as I heard the nomination, I recognized it for what it was – a brilliantly struck revelation of a political show-horse. A coup in the welding of “Us” for a campaign that didn’t have a firm “Us” glue. The brief time between then and now has shown, in my opinion, that the move is accomplishing its goals admirably. As noted by other comments, it seems the worst thing that can be done is to come right out and attack Palin – but I’ve read plenty of criticisms that do indeed inflame the base she’s intended to court.

    I’ve long thought that Jon Stewart’s proposed Democratic Convention t-shirt was hilarious: “2008 DNC: Even WE can’t F#$% this one up!!!” It summarizes so many points so eloquently! I believe very strongly that McCain’s pick was a savvy move designed to give the Democrats the ability and incentive to open up on someone so stereotypically conservative that they couldn’t help but hang themselves with the rope he’d just handed them.

    Be smart. I can only hope the democratic candidates promote their policies, and emphasize and re-emphasize the need for change and reconnection with the rest of the world. Leaders lead by example, and right now we need to set MANY standards for the world to follow, or we’re ALL in trouble.

    Regards,
    A Venture fan who found a surprisingly interesting political discussion

  16. quitwriting says:

    So, how ’bout that Private Ryan. He still needs some savin’ and I was enjoying a brilliant narrative. Hint hint?

  17. faroffstar says:

    I was feeling pretty unenthusiastic about all the candidates until McCain chose Palin…the thought of that woman being president is so reprehensible to me, that it made up my mind to vote for Obama. I can only hope that there are a lot more people like me out there. I live in a relatively small county in Florida…and we have more people in it then the entire state of Alaska…

    Also, why is it that whenever there is a high profile teenage pregnancy, the media brings up the movie Juno? I don’t seem to recall the message of that movie being that teens should get pregnant, because it’ll make everything in their life better.

  18. samedietc says:

    not that you need another movie to watch, I’m sure, but when was the last time you saw Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face in the Crowd”? It’s about an authentic down-home fella who goes on to national prominence and power. I’m bringing it up particularly for the scenes where he advises some isolationist senator on how to sell himself as a personality/brand.

    • chatoyant_1 says:

      not that you need another movie to watch, I’m sure, but when was the last time you saw Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face in the Crowd”? And perhaps for a nice double-feature that fits right to today’s RNP, add “Advise and Consent” from 1962.

  19. To the majority of the country, McCain’s message is “You better hope I stay alive in office,”

    My fiancee is of the opinion that something similar is at work with the current president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono*, and his VP. Jusuf Kalla was popular and helped build a coalition, but he’s also a fairly hardline Islamic type (and has an ongoing rivalry with SBY).

    This means that SBY gets a large amount of support from the country’s non-Muslims, a minority but a powerful one, because even though they don’t like him much, if they got rid of SBY they’d end up with Kalla.

    *What is it with Indonesians and either having only one name or a succession of very long ones? It’s feast or famine!

  20. Anonymous says:

    In the photo you posted, Palin’s expression is a lot like Mussolini’s.

  21. r_sikoryak says:

    But where’s Sarah Palin’s review of Disaster Movie?

  22. Anonymous says:

    no way

    Holy s***, you were the screamer in Hudsucker?!?!? That is easily in my top ten faves of all time.

    Great blog, btw, linking on my blog.