Bene mentioned last night a desire for some commentary on the cynically timed announcement of McCain’s running partner as Sarah Palin, so here goes: here’s a short bit from the LA Times, who sums her up as a risky choice due to her inexperience, the very charge that the McCain campaign has been harping on with respect to Obama (others don’t buy that line).
How will she fare in the TV debates against the veteran politicker Biden? Will Palin’s history of running for Miss Alaska back when Obama was applying to Harvard Law School help balance the whole “celebrity” schtick? We’ll have to wait and see over the next two months (which could be a very long two months of infuriating sexism levelled against a different female candidate this time (the concept of vpilf.com is especially obstreperating)). But if the McCain campaign has chosen a woman at least partly to appeal to Hillary supporters, well: anti-abortion advocate Palin is not the woman those disaffected Dems are looking for, that’s for sure. How insulting to left-leaning women generally for the GOP to think that she could be: as if all that matters to Hillary supporters is that Hillary was a woman, so Palin is interchangeable just because she’s a woman too.
What I do find interesting though is that in McCain choosing a woman as VP who’s more socially conservative than he is, he is playing to the potentially disaffected Republican base, those people who won’t vote Obama in a million years but who might very well choose to stay home rather than vote McCain – Palin might just tip enough of them into turning up at the polls. Obama’s choice of Biden, oddly, appears to be also playing particularly to the potentially disaffected Republican base (who, remember, mostly wouldn’t vote Obama in a million years). This is not to say that Biden doesn’t have any strong points on the left side of the balance, but his particular strength for the combined ticket is as a centrist with some hawkish credentials. Why aim to appeal to the right more than to the base of Democrats feeling alienated, Dems who were willing to vote for him earlier this year if he ended up the nominee but who now have doubts because he’s been equivocating on their core issues as part of running after swinging Republicans (a pattern repeated by the last few Dem presidential campaigns – why do they keep running after the right instead of shoring up the left? how many Congress majorities do they have to lose to get the message?).
Of course McCain chose a Veep to appeal to his base on the Right rather than any possible swing from the Left. Most of those people who read carefully are well aware that the PUMA phenomenon is over-hyped, a media narrative picked up and blown out of all proportion. The resentment is there in bucketsful, sure (including a couple of bloggers who’ve been on my feed reader for ages and who regularly rant in fine PUMA style). There’s especially heaps of resentment that traditional pro-forma procedures acknowledging close contenders were banned from happening by the DNC just for this convention: nevertheless that doesn’t mean that a majority of Hillary supporters are going to vote for McCain out of spite (a term with interesting connotations), especially in a swing state – they can count the numbers on the Supreme Court as well as anybody.
But what about the disaffected Dems living in states that are solidly red or blue in presidential elections? Where a small proportion of those not toeing either party line cannot influence the electoral college result, but whose vote can strategically influence other results? Those who perhaps initially supported Edwards as a check against corporatism, then who may have voted for Hillary in the primaries because of her determination regarding healthcare, and who’ve never particularly been convinced that Obama is strong in the areas that matter most to them? The Greens for one are going to pick up plenty of votes, enough to allow them to develop their party funding base and become a more influential party in the next election and the election after that. The perception that the Dem National Committee has simply ignored their concerns could also hurt a lot of Dems running for Congress/Senate at the State and local levels – the Dems could conceivably win a Presidency that has to cope with a hostile Congress and more Republican/Independent Governors than ever before.
At the beginning of this year, there were plenty of Dem voters looking at the candidacies of Edwards, Clinton and Obama and thinking “wow, this is great, I could happily vote for any of them, we’re not only going to sweep the Presidency we’ll sweep both Houses as well”. That general cross-candidate goodwill has largely evaporated amongst many Dems who first supported other contenders because they feel that their vote is being demanded as an entitlement rather than having their issues considered in the way that the issues of disaffected Republicans are being considered.
Even worse, people who are not fully on board with Obama, even those who are just saying “I’ll vote for him, but I’m not that happy about it” are reporting that others both online and in their social/family circles are bullying them for not being evangelically pro-Obama. That sort of bullying is not going to convince hold-their-nose Obama voters to become fervid supporters and evangelists for Obama-Biden, but it may well push them into not voting for any other Dem on the ticket for all those other elections in November.
There comes a point when people should just be satisfied (though not complacent) that the numbers are falling their way with the potential to get even better. No need to get true-believer on people’s arses as well.