Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ruminations on McCain's VP Pick Part III

Ok, one last post (no promises) on this pick. The more I think about it the more I like it, I like, at least, the symbolism behind it.

Sarah Palin, in many symbolic ways, can be seen as almost a carbon copy of Barack Obama. Both have pretty compelling life stories, both are non-traditional candidates. Both come from modest but not poor families. Both are self-made, having worked their way up the political ladder through their own work and political skill. Both are young, part of the new generation of political leaders, not beholden to the nastiness that defined the baby-boom Vietnam generation. Both have a chance to represent and shape what both political parties may become moving into the 21st century. Since the old policies and politics have been largely played out and have now largely been proven ineffective. If you want change in Washington, both candidates can represent change. But the similarities don't end with that, both candidates have stable and strong families, both candidates grew up in states (Hawaii and Alaska) not part of the continental US. Both even enjoy and are good at basketball... Even more so, both have admitted to past drug use. My head is spinning.

And ironically enough, the other halves of the political tickets are almost carbon copies of each other. Biden and McCain are even friends and colleagues. Both have been in the Senate for years and years. Both have compelling life stories. Both have a reputation for straight talk. Both have had health issues (McCain's cancer, Biden's brain aneurysm). For both, foreign policy is their first love, and both, in that respect, have a ton of experience and connections to fall back on.

There are some significant differences of course. The Republican party has been burdened by decades of political success and so have not been forced to really reinvent themselves like the Democratic party has.

But more than that, this ticket from the Republican party seems a little forced, a little artificial to me. McCain won the ticket by luck and by accident. He lucked out that the other independent, politically moderate candidate with an appeal to independents, Rudy Giuliani, didn't even step foot in the early states, leaving McCain an open and unfettered shot at that demographic. Romney, meanwhile, had his votes peeled away by Mike Huckabee, who took advantage of Romney's religion to take significant chunks of the Christian right away from him. Obama had to claw and scratch to the bitter end to take down the Clinton machine, and he did it by sheer effort, superior organizing, and by tapping into vast political skill.

In that respect, McCain has had to try too hard to win over his base, and it still seems to me to be an uneasy marriage. The base doesn't trust McCain, and McCain just seems to be playing the part long enough to win their votes. Meanwhile, Biden is largely loved by the Democratic base. The Democrats have long gotten used to their political leaders moving to the center, so they are more comfortable with political moderation and "betrayal". Biden's hawkishness is authentic, and I think many on the left have just grown to accept that Democrats are going to be that way.

Biden, unlike Palin, actually ran for president in this election cycle as well. Biden and Obama know each other, have worked with each other in the Senate, and seem to really enjoy each other. From some accounts, McCain has only personally met Palin one time.

Additionally, Obama seems more authentically about something tangibly new for the Democratic party. More on this later, but his message of bi-partisanship, and get things done compromise, is more than just sloganeering, its authentic. He also, as I said previously, actually signed up for this, so he's been working harder and longer both at his rapid political ascension and at this bruising presidential campaign than Palin.

Ironically, even though Palin is young, fresh, and new, McCain actually seems more naturally the change candidate than Palin does (at least at first glance). Just like Obama, there seems to be a lot of projection of other peope's hopes and dreams onto Palin. People see her as the conservative's one last ditch effort to preserve the Christian political base of the Republican party. We'll see if she lives up to that, but at least on the surface she seems to be pretty firmly pro-life, pro-drilling, pro-oil, pro-Christian right ideology. I suspect she has a more modern projection of these ideas, but I also suspect that she simply has had not enough time or opportunity to really firm up what her positions are in so many of these areas. She's going to have to learn quickly and come across to the voting public that she's a candidate with depth, that she has a firm and deep grasp on the important national issues of the day.

So, in summary, the Democratic ticket seems much more natural, more authentic than does the Republican ticket. I think on that alone, the Democrats should win this election.

I'm excited for the Republican ticket, however, because of the sheer audacity of this ticket, it gives them a better opportunity to present what the Republican party can represent going forward. Palin, in many ways, is their answer to Obama. And I'm excited to really see what that answer is all about. I'm just afraid it has come way too late in the game, like a poorly prepared student cramming for the final exam the night before the test.

But the Republican party's future and the future of our country lies in how well the McCain/Palin ticket does. Our country is more than a country of democrats. It behooves us all for both political parties to be strong, relevant, and vibrant.

My hopes and prayers lie firmly with Palin tonight as much as they do with Obama.


Writermama said...

Palin is so anti-abortion that she believes that women who are raped or the victim of incest should not have the right to a legal abortion. She is also anti-environmentalist and pro -oil. She represents everything that is not working, I firmly believe. Plus, what experience has she had on the economy.

I find McCain's pick hugely cynical. I hope the country is not duped by her Miss Congeniality facade. The fact that she could be one heartbeat away from the presidency is terrifying.

tempe turley said...


I'm not sure about your first point, but I'm really hoping this election isn't about abortion. If it becomes such for the Republicans, Obama wins.

Also, I'm not sure yet about the motive behind the pick. I hope it wasn't cynical. It just feels better for me to believe it wasn't.

I agree about the idea of having Palin a heartbeat away from the Presidency. But that will only happen if McCain/Palin win.

That will happen only if Palin proves herself up to the job. She has 3 months to prove it. She will have every chance to prove she's up to it, since she'll be scrutinized to death over the coming months.

And if she proves it than so be it. Certainly, if Obama can show he's presidential worthy with his thin resume, Palin should be given a chance.

Admittedly she has less time and less opportunity than Obama already has.

But also admittedly, she's not running for the president like Obama has.

Writermama said...

no, the election should not be about abortion, but people so often vote that way, and it does have signficance if mccain thinks that by choosing palin he will be able to woo pro-choice hillary supporters.

but her stance on abortion is extreme. google it, you'll see. it makes her even less tolerant of abortion that the LDS Church.

it's interesting to note, too, that palin supports abstinence-only education in schools in light of her own unmarried daughter becoming pregnant. again, her daughter's situation is only an issue because of palin's stance.

tempe turley said...


I agree people vote on abortion, I just don't think its going to sway this election either way.

If you look at the list of issues people feel are important right, is abortion even on the list? Certainly not ahead of energy or the economy or terrorism or education or health care or...

Palin probably has some extreme views that are getting the Republican base excited, but the central point about Palin is whether she can hold up under all the scrutiny and pressure she's getting and will continue to get.

McCain's entire candidacy now hinges on Palin in my opinion.

Obama's experience, his primary weakness, all of a sudden becomes a non-issue.

This choice was the strangest panic move in a presidential election in a long time. It's mind boggling every time I think about it actually.

I actually hope she pulls it out, but I'm not sure its even going to matter. Obama has been so Reaganesque in the way he's been managing this campaign, so positive, so confident, so consistent.

With Palin, McCain completely changed his campaign and I don't see how that helps him at all...

By the way, Palin's daughter's baby is a complete non-issue. Would it be an issue if a strong proponent of sex education in the schools had a child who got pregnant?

I say no. These things happen all the time, there's no good way to make teenage pregnancies disappear.

Better to just leave that issue alone because it's completely distracting from the important stuff going on right now.