FROSTDamn, I just figured it out. The Republicans obviously know they’re going down on Nov. 4. America is set to dump the party that’s hosted the past seven years, and the GOP brain trust is aware that polling data suggesting a close presidential race is wildly inaccurate. Pollsters can’t contact the cell phones of all those Obama-loving younger voters who don’t own landlines (the only ones pollsters are allowed to call). Those members of the youthful demographic who are being surveyed prefer Obama by 20 plus points. The very poor (primed to actually vote this time) and the highly educated (also strongly Obama) are likewise less reachable by telephone.
But, despite knowing what kind of writing is on the wall, the GOP just generated some very good will among Republican women and right-wingers for use in future attempts to rebuild its self-destructed image. But let no one be fooled. Sarah Palin as a legitimate candidate for the second biggest job in these United States?
Well, OK, but then you have to explain rationally why McCain would throw away his only halfway compelling argument to use against Obama … his limited experience. The choice of Palin as VP says that McCain is fine with an almost complete absence of it a few heart palpitations away from the presidency … and we’re talking his fairly high-mileage ticker. The senator can never again seriously bring up the issue of Obama’s “lack of experience.” If he does, he’ll have to explain in his next breath why he chose a backup with even less of it.
Yes, McCain certainly understands that Palin as veep is essentially a nonstarter. The move is, however, something like a coach putting in all the third-string players at the end of a game that’s already hopelessly lost. It gives the kids a little experience and playing time but just as importantly, it makes all their friends and family sitting up in the stands feel a little better and gives them a reason to have shown up. And to show up again next time.
As I write this, one of a couple of personal skeletons in Palin’s closet may yet scuttle her bid. But I’m guessing McCain knew about those, too. Rather than her not being adequately vetted (of course, that’s certainly a possibility considering McCain’s knee-jerk, emotional decision-making style), maybe she was chosen even knowing that she may get bounced. At that point, however, the messages will have been sent no matter whom McCain substitutes.
The media and blogosphere are full of all the obvious reasons why Palin’s selection is a poor one. She’s been governor of where for almost two years? Alaska? That’s the state with a population smaller than that of 19 U.S. cities … right behind Charlotte, N.C.. Alaska’s biggest current financial challenge is figuring out what to do with all the extra money it collects from oil field revenues. Politicians there fight over the vexing question, “Gosh, just how large shall we leave the surplus this year?” Yeah, some “real-world executive experience” being governor of Alaska is these days! Hey, I used to live there and am still rather fond of the place, but I understand how things work there.
So let’s recognize this selection for what it really is. The choice of Sarah Palin is John McCain’s schmoozing of Republican women and social conservatives on behalf of his party. Of course, he doesn’t believe that progressive women will be swayed to vote differently because of his running mate’s gender. Hillary supporters will not flock to McCain and to Palin any more than Geraldine Ferraro made Republican women vote for Walter Mondale in 1984. It was Hillary herself and the ideas she espoused that people supported … not any woman with political ideas diametrically opposed to their own. Many resent the blatant pandering for female support that Palin awkwardly attempted in her announcement speech appeal to some imagined “Sisterhood of the Traveling Votes.”
As for social politics, Palin is further to the right than McCain, so this public relations gimmick couldn’t possibly improve the Republican election outcome. Rather, the move may actually drive centrist swing voters to Obama. It does, however, make for fascinating political theater and will certainly net some positive PR with certain core constituencies within the Grand Old Party. Republicans will be able to claim, “Hey, we put a woman at the very top of the ticket.” Well, almost the top anyway, which now ties them with the Democrats … 24 years after the fact.
Of course, John McCain is no idiot. He clearly understood and helped orchestrate all of this. He wasn’t trying to hit a home run to miraculously get elected by choosing Palin. There’s realistically not much chance of that. He did, however, find the most gracious way to lose. But the coming election loss won’t get blamed on the selection of Sarah P. George Bush will feel at least three out of four bus wheels pass directly over his chest for that honor. Hell, maybe he deserves all of them.
But McCain is certainly being a good warrior by falling on his sword so valiantly. Soon, he’ll go back to the Senate to complete a term that ends in 2010 and, after that, he’ll probably have the good sense to retire … comfortably short of when his presidency would have ended. But, hey, he looks tired and deserves the rest anyway. It’s all a very convenient plan that works fairly nicely for everyone, especially for a nation that desperately needs a new direction in leadership and that won’t be distracted for long by an election year public-relations stunt.
Jim Catano is a freelance copy editor and writer, hiker, cyclist, mostly vegetarian, health-nut leftie. You can tell him what a whacko he is at firstname.lastname@example.org. But he already knows.