Friday, August 29, 2008

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Who?

An entire nation says, in unison, “Sarah who?”

-- John Cole

...Oh, and while I'm not commenting on current events, I liked Obama's speech a lot -- I liked that he went after conservatism and not just McCain, and so forth, the sort of things that all the liberals are saying. I'm just not interested, myself, in what I think: I want to know how it's going to effect people not insanely biased in Obama's favor. And so far I haven't seen any data on that (although I admit Pat Buchanan's fawning seems like a good sign.)

Update: I've been surfing around looking for reactions to McCain's VP pick, and here's a point I haven't seen made yet. (Which probably just means I haven't seen it, not that it hasn't been made.) And I'm far from certain about it, but in a spirit of tentative musing, I'll throw it out there.

I think that in addition to the obvious (an attempt to cash in on the "change" feeling, plus a hope to reinforce McCain's existing-if-undeserved maverick/reformist reputation*, etc, etc), this is an attempt to cash in on people's subtle -- even unconscious -- racism.

Here's what I mean. Noah Millman (via) says of Palin:
...she gives women who are angry about Hillary being passed over another reason to vote McCain; she gives fence-sitting whites who feel they "ought" to vote for Obama because of the historic nature of his candidacy an excuse to find history on the other side...
I'm simply putting a slightly darker spin on that. I think that a lot of people are uneasy despite themselves with the notion of an African American President; and putting a woman on the ticket gives them permission to feel good about themselves ("finding history") while still not voting for the black guy. (This also explains McCain's ad of last night congratulating Obama on making history: he wants to acknowledge this issue, and then claim that it's a wash; that was the first half of that two-step.)

Of course, they'll have to vote for a woman. But the VP candidate is not the Presidential candidate; and I, personally, remained convinced that racism is stronger than sexism in this country -- particularly when you force people to choose between them (rather than between a non-white male and a white male).**

I don't know if this was deliberate on McCain's part -- although given the takeover of his campaign by Rovian operatives, I'd guess that it was deliberate on someone's part.

The possible flip side to this, of course, is that a lot of I'm-not-a-racist-but-ism has latched onto Obama's lack of experience as their "objective" criteria for dismissing him, and Palin makes that argument trickier. (Doesn't mean they won't try it under the flag of IOKIYAR, of course.) But I bet they'll simply pirouette and find another cover story to give people who are hesitant an excuse for not voting for Obama.

Don't get me wrong: I'm very hopeful that, even if this is the strategy, that it won't work. And I'm certainly not saying that other factors -- her pro-life stance, the above-mentioned attempt to burnish McCain's undeserved maverick reputation, the simple lack of other good candidates -- weren't more important. But I think this is a signal about how they're going to run. After all, we all know they can't run on their ideas -- those have been shown, over the last eight years, to be entirely disastrous*** -- and Palin's lack of experience complicates their heretofore primary argument on non-issue grounds. So what's left? Sure, the lie of McCain's maverick nature; the POW card; but also the plain, basic appeal to good, old-fashioned American racism. It's a lot of what they have left.

Let's hope that we've grown beyond that. I guess we'll see in a few months.

Update 2: I do think that the Obama campaign would be stupid to try and make an issue of Palin's level of experience -- as, I fear, they are starting to do. (The same applies to liberal commentators who genuinely want to help Obama win.) I've long thought that experience shouldn't be an issue -- but either way, it's not winning ground for Democrats this year, even if it is less winning ground for Republicans than it used to be. Better to try to pocket the neutralization of the issue and move on to the issues -- the ground on which we can win and (bonus!) the ground on which elections really ought to be fought.

Update 3, from the credit-where-credit-is-due-dep't: If I'm reading this right, Sarah Palin seems to have named one of her children after Willow Rosenberg, the character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- who, in addition to being Buffy's best friend & sidekick, was a lesbian witch. (Just sayin'.) While it doesn't make me inclined to vote for her or anything, gotta give her mad props for that. (Oh, and for a bonus, another daughter is named after another witch from the TV show Charmed. -- I sort of wonder what her evangelical Christian base is gonna think of that...) Update to Update: Alas, this seems not to be true. Ah well.

* One might think that picking as a symbol of anti-corruption crusading someone who is themselves involved in a corruption scandal would be a silly move.... if one was utterly unfamiliar with the American press's willingness to regurgitate Republican talking points and ignore factual contradictions.

** No, this isn't disproved by the results of the Clinton-Obama race: I don't want to go too deeply into this, really, but I'm personally convinced that if not for racism Obama would have won more decisively and quickly. But I can see the argument on the other side.

*** My favorite line from any convention speech -- after Kucinich's undelivered zinger, anyway -- was from Bill Clinton's speech:
But on the two great questions of this election -- how to rebuild the American dream and how to restore America's leadership in the world -- [McCain] still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years. And it is, to be fair to all the Americans who aren't as hard- core Democrats as we, it's a philosophy the American people never actually had a chance to see in action fully until 2001, when the Republicans finally gained control of both the White House and the Congress. Then we saw what would happen to America if the policies they had talked about for decades actually were implemented. And look what happened.
To me, this is the basic point to make, over and over. Bush implemented conservatism, and it was a disaster; let's go a different way. (And one of the reasons that I liked Obama's speech is that he did go some distance in that direction.)

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