Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin and McCain's Base

Kevin Drum asks the following question about the religious right's (reportedly) rapturous reaction to McCain's VP pick:
The New York Times piece confirms something we already knew, namely that up until the middle of last week McCain's top choice for running mate was either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. And he would have picked one of them except that word came back that the base would be furious if he chose a pro-choice veep. So he pulled a 180 and chose Palin instead. And the base has reacted rapturously. But seriously: are they really that easy to sucker? It's plain where McCain's true sentiments lie: he would have chosen a pro-choice partner if he could possibly have gotten away with it. He only picked Palin out of absolute political necessity. And yet the Christian right reacted as giddily as if he had genuinely seen the light. So I guess the answer is: yes, they really are that easy to sucker. Pretty amazing.
This gets the issue backwards, I think. Why should the religious right care about what McCain's "true sentiments" are?* They should care about what he's likely to do on issues they care about. Assuming that the latter is largely abortion, and that abortion rights are (at least currently) fought out primarily in the courts, then the fact that McCain was politically intimidated out of what he wanted into picking a candidate in line with their wishes (despite various negatives about her) is in fact be a triumph for them -- and they are wise to consider it so. Basically, McCain has just shown them that he will set aside his true sentiments to follow their wishes -- to the point of making a pick that many other people find laughable. This is precisely what they want -- given their priorities, maybe even what they should want.

It's not McCain's sentiments, but his appointments -- or, rather, the results that the latter lead to -- that will actually make a difference. If you want to restrict women's reproductive freedom, McCain's just shown he'll bow and scrape to you -- that you have, indeed, that much political pull with him.

If he'll select Palin as his VP pick, just think who he'll pick for the Supreme Court. Even if that's a nightmare for the rest of us, McCain's base is not at all unwise to celebrate it.

Suckers? Hell, no. Anyone who thinks he's a moderate, or will be pulled in that direction -- yeah, they're suckers. The religious right, on the other hand, just showed that they're the masters of McCain's universe. No wonder they're giddy.

Update: Digby, of course, gets it:
The Christian right loves Palin and are feeling their oats big time that they wielded enough clout to force a choice like this and it's quite an achievement when you think about it. (If only progressives had that kind of clout...)

*Granted, this is close to a classic conservative concern -- about a candidates "heart" -- that is, I think, both deeply rooted and deeply misguided; one that they frequently focus on to their, and our, misfortune. But since it makes sense, I think, to ignore this, there is no mystery about why they are doing it; it may depart from their usual error, it seems to me that in this case the base is acting wisely.

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