Obligatory Obama acclamation & McCain Veep selection thread

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.

Categories: culture wars, Politics

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33 replies

  1. Thanks for obliging me, tig.
    The thing is, while the PUMA bit has been blown out of proportion to a certain extent, it is a very real phenomenon. In my RL identity, I’m a member of a very substantial craft-based community where there is a decent sized group of very loud and very angry PUMAs. Maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems, but it sure feels overwhelming because of the amount of vitriol they express regularly. And of course, vitriol leads to equally nasty vitriol from the opposition…
    That said, to be honest, I wouldn’t say disillusionment with the DNC is particularly effective in rooting out Dems on state and local levels, really. The connection to the DNC and the Democrat name are fairly tenuous in that arena and most people vote on past behavior and locally-based issues rather than party lines.
    Which is how you can get a Democratic governor and one of the most left wing senators in Congress and a same-sex marriage ban all out of the state of Wisconsin at similar times.

  2. I should also note that while I’m an Obama supporter and have been since the beginning, I’ve been pretty uncomfortable with the true believer contingent.

  3. Bene, don’t be nervous here about being an Obama supporter, please – he’s a strong candidate, as were Clinton especially, and Edwards too. It’s just become so messy.
    I can understand the anger of some people who feel that their issues have been shoved aside, and I can understand the concern of Obama supporters that this anger could torpedo the election, I just don’t think that the best way to deal with the anger is to tell folks to suck it up and get with the program, which is what the true believers are doing.
    Interesting that you don’t see a disaffection with the national committee being that strong an element in state/local elections. It certainly happens here! Especially if party HQ parachutes in some outsider – but perhaps that happens less over there?

  4. Thanks, tig. I just wanted to make clear that while I do think a general ‘get on the bandwagon’ is necessary for American Dems overall because that’s the way the game is played every four years, it sure doesn’t mean OMG YOU MUST BE A CHEERLEADER AND AGREE WITH EVERYTHING MY BFF BARACK SAYS. (I sure don’t…his stance on No Child Left Behind, for example.)
    On the local/state level, bringing in outsiders is a pretty rare event. The party system here is considerably different, partially because the head of the party has no real power in any branch of the US government, at all. The state party office may be a big deal in state and local politics, but they too have no direct power, and the state Democratic Party can be somewhat deviant from the national level party line depending on the state.
    So you can get in trouble with the party, but that doesn’t mean as much, because they can’t really kick you out, and it’s just a label. Evidence Joe Lieberman, for example.

  5. Quite a lot of the parachuting here involves not so much total outsiders as in nepotistic stuff – putting forward a candidate whose main leverage is their relationship to a Party heavyweight rather than a truly impressive history of local activism. The number of MPs who are the offspring of previous Ministers or the spouse of another MP (or a party official) is distressingly large for both our major parties.
    A lot of electorates resent that mightily around here (although it still works often enough that it continues to happen). And sometimes it’s a truly brilliant ploy, as in bringing in a favourite national TV figure to unseat our previous PM so that he simply faded from the national stage: however in that case the locals who wanted to vote Labor actually felt that they had been given a dream candidate rather than having a party hack imposed upon them (after all, sometimes the long-serving local activist is the greater Party hack).
    It’s certainly something I weigh in the balance for elections at different levels of government. Of course, with our system of government these various elections are widely spaced rather than bunched up together for one day, so that affects the calculus for each vote as well.

  6. P.S. our system also has a disconnect between the Parliamentary Party (all the MPs belonging to a particular party) and the Party as a whole (all members of the party at the various levels – municipal branches, state branches, and federal branches). It is only the leadership of the majority Parliamentary party who hold administrative office as the Prime Minister and Cabinet – the larger party per se has no direct control over them once they have been elected.

  7. Thanks for the info and education, as I really had no idea. Generally, I’d say that the latter version of ‘the party’ as you mention it in #6 is how the parties are here in the US, and there is no equivalent concept to the Parliamentary party as a unified group. In Congress there are party caucuses, and the de facto leaders of the leading party in Congress are the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, but their influence on the rest of the party members in either Congressional venue is fairly limited. Toeing the line is expected but never a means for expulsion from the party, like I’ve heard can happen in the UK.
    And of course, one party can have control of the House and the other control of the Senate, or one control of Congress and the other the Presidency; this is sort of like a minority government situation, but less so, again because of the wide acceptable range of opinions within a party.

  8. Getting back to the issue at hand, though, the disconnect between state and national politics is fairly high, mostly because of the Constitution stating that all powers not delineated as being part of the national government go to the states. So really, they have their own business to deal with most of the time, and only when something becomes unconstitutional or interferes with a Supreme Court case directly does the national government get involved in those affairs. This is how California can marry same-sex couples and Virginia can ban the very notion…and a state senator as Democrat could have voted either way on the issue in one state or the other.
    Local government is another story entirely.
    That said, Obama’s experience as a state senator would be generally seen as being more effective than Palin’s mayoral experience, despite one being legislative and the other being executive. A state senator has quite a bit on his or her plate in terms of law, and would have a better understanding of how policy works, particularly in a large and politically varied state like Illinois.

  9. Folks, I have just about *had it* with discussions about this stuff anywhere other than feminist blogs. I shit you not, I am currently watching a debate between two people about whether more Clinton supporters are voting for McCain because 1) they’re bitter, or because 2) they’re racist.

  10. Doug Philips is unimpressed with Palin (because even though she’s uber-conservative, wimminz have no place in politics):
    <a href="http://www.visionforum.com/hottopics/blogs/dwp/2008/08/4273.aspxhttp://www.visionforum.com/hottopics/blogs/dwp/2008/08/4273.aspx</a&gt;
    (I hope that doesn’t form an actual link.)

  11. Ack, it did form a link. I fully understand if you want to remove it, to avoid having traffic tracked back to here– I just meant to provide something that people could copy/paste if they were curious.

  12. It was, Beppie, but I put a “nofollow” on it – is that what you wanted?
    (plus, sheesh, that’s some site.)

  13. Oh, fundies say the darndest things. I’m reading Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus:The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” and it has some very interesting things to say about the Bible supposed injunctions against women having leadership roles. Anyway.
    Palin invoking the 18m cracks in the glass ceiling and a bunch of Republicans cheering Hilary in such a cynical exercise just disgusted me, frankly. Are you frakking KIDDING me?

  14. To me, the very fact that he chose her seems sexist. She clearly wasn’t chosen for qualifications or because she’s a big name or anything like that. I have a feeling McCain had some conversation with his advisers that went something like this:
    McCain: Look how many votes Hilary got. I had no idea that so many people would vote for the novelty of a woman politician.
    Adviser: But sir, don’t you think she got those votes based on her policies, her past achievements, or the people’s belief that she would be a great leader?
    McCain: Haha! Good one. Seriously though, we should get in on this cute novelty. Let’s get some pretty young lady to show off to everybody.
    Actually, one thing that is really amazing me is how everybody is talking about how she has a baby with Down’s Syndrome as if that reflects poorly on her. How is that even any of our business?

  15. What is McCain Thinking: One Alaskan Perspective
    This well written blog post seems to have generated quite a lot of interest. And while the main article is very informative, the comments thread, IMO, gives a good indication of who will be swayed to vote for McCain as a result of this decision, and who won’t.

  16. Beppie: I’d heard about that post but hadn’t got around to reading it. It echoes some other sentiments by Alaskans I know elsewhere, and you’re right, the comment thread is enlightening. Though a bit hard on the blood pressure at times.

  17. You know, I’m really frustrated. So many people seem to have this idea that Obama doesn’t care about a.) the economy b.) health care and c.) women’s issues. But from my perspective, all I see Obama talk about is the economy and health care. I see him trying to make a big campaign issue out of equal pay for women. I see him directly looking at health care and the economy while talking about how these things affect women — and health care and the economy should be feminist and “women’s issues.”
    Honestly, I haven’t got the slightest idea what people want because it seems to me that the Obama campaign has done everything that people claimed was wanted. They’ve praised Hillary more times than I can count. They’ve picked up many of her talking points, seemingly with Hillary’s blessing. Hillary has given more than one rousing speech in his favor. They talk about the economy incessantly and make a big deal out of health care — Hillary’s two big issues.
    So yeah, I’m outrageously frustrated. But I do genuinely want to know: now that we know for sure that Hillary is not the VP nominee, what would make these holdout Clinton supporters happy? What exactly could Obama do to bring them back into the party? I ask this despite my frustration with all sincerity, and if someone thinks they have an answer I’d greatly appreciate it.

  18. I’m willling to donate hard cash to anyone who wants to buy the alternative VPWHGKYA domain (VP Whose Husband’s Gunna Kick Yo Ass) and identify the VPILTF asshat.

  19. I’d find “VP Whose Husband’s Gunna Kick Yo Ass” at least as offensive, if not more. At least VPILF doesn’t assume she’s some man’s property.

  20. Considering Governor Palin’s stance on gun control, I’d say she is pretty good at taking care of her own business.

  21. That was my thought too Bene. You’d better HOPE it was the husband that got to you first…

  22. Cara, I really wonder how many of the most vociferous people who voted for Clinton in the primaries and who now are threatening to vote for McCain were actually registered Democrats in the first place? Obviously, actual delegates at the convention were, but how many actual delegates have said that they will not vote for Obama versus saying that they’re not yet convinced? I suspect most long-term Dems who preferred Hillary will fall behind Obama when it comes to the crunch, and the few who won’t have their own reasons for doing so that can only be addressed by actually listening to them.
    Clinton also brought a lot of Independents and a fair few moderate Republicans over in the primaries because they were attracted to her personally as a potential leader. Those folks are simply not natural Democrats who will just move along to the Obama column, because many of them may well have bought the “oh, he’s such an extreme leftist” rubbish (we know that he’s not, but I keep on reading it). They buy it to such a degree that any movement Obama makes to conciliate the right is viewed as pure deception, especially by the subset that are essentially Ron Paul supporters.
    Also, judge the loudest PUMA groups by who heads them: Darragh Murphy claims to be a lifelong Democrat but the only donation on record from her at the FEC is $500 in 2000 to McCain, while Will Bower told a total untruth about PUMA raising $6M to “retire Hillary’s debt”. The media loves this story, not least because it plays into the “crazy feminists” trope, and nobodies like Murphy and Bower are riding their 15 minutes into the ground.

  23. What I find most disturbing (apart from all the racism and sexism) is the Australian progressive sphere’s attitude towards Obama vs Rudd. Obama is very centrist and I would definitely place him at the same spot on the political spectrum as Rudd.
    The progressives in Australia were very good at calling Rudd out on his crap leading up to the election. Many even scoffed at anyone suggesting that Australia would be a much better place under Rudd. Good on them.
    And yet the very same people who were critical of Rudd refuse to say a bad word about Obama. All his mistakes are brushed over as ‘well he has to say that to get votes’, ‘He’s just doing these right wing / centrist actions to get elected, and then once he’s in office, he’ll be really progressive’. See LP for a prime example. I have felt very uncomfortable on all Aussie progressive blogs except this one in the last few months, solely because I’m not thrilled about Obama.
    I’m scared of a McCain presidency, but I’m also very scared of a corporatist centrist sexist candidate who only right wing arseholes and the occasional progressive critisize.
    (Personally? I think John Edwards was probably the best of a mediocre bunch, and Al Gore probably would have been slightly better. I voted Greens at the last election).

  24. Beppie/Lauredhel @ 10-12,
    I’m assuming that Beppie meant that it’s not a good idea for the linked site to know that people are visiting there via a link from a blog like this.
    The best way to do this is to use a service like anonym.to: http://anonym.to/en.html
    This lets you create links that don’t let the people at the linked site see where their visitors are coming from. EG:
    will let people here visit the forum linked above, but when the maintainers of that forum check their traffic, they won’t be able to see that the links came from here.
    “nofollow” just means that Google doesn’t take account of a incoming link when decideing how important a certain page is – for instance, if I tried to post 200 links here to my blog to get more Google ranking, nofollowing those links would stop me doing that.
    David Jackmansons last blog post..Brisbane Riverfire fireworks 2008

  25. Thanks, David. I don’t know about tigtog, but I have no problem with the people at that site knowing that people are coming from here – I’d just rather they didn’t get pagerank-linkjuice from it. But that could be a useful tip for the future.
    Another option is just to mung the url, eg
    so that people have to cut/paste and edit.

  26. Tigtog, I agree. I think that the whole thing has been really overblown, but then I keep seeing posts like this one suggesting that Obama is not doing enough to win the votes of “disaffected Democrats” voting for Hillary Clinton. That’s what inspired my question.

  27. Cara: I don’t think there really is an answer to your question, which is a pity. Rachel Maddow referred to the PUMAs as ‘post-rational’, and I don’t know if that’s correct or if, as said, they were actually right-wingers all along.

  28. if, as said, they were actually right-wingers all along

    It’s hard to tell sometimes with US politics, given that even your left-wing in general looks fairly centrist-drifting-to-right to the rest of the world.
    All the candidates running for Dem this year are far too centrist for my taste, for instance. Edwards had a few more progressive planks in the platform than either Clinton or Obama, but still very very centrist. Were I a US citizen, I’d only have voted for any of the Dem candidates in order to vote against the Republicans.
    For a lot of people very unexcited about Dems in general, either Clinton or Obama gave them, for a change, someone to get really excited about (some people were excited by both). For many Hillary fans, with her off the ticket, they’re back to being not excited any more. I can’t see how you can change that, and for those who are willing to vote Obama resignedly in order to keep McCain out, then just be happy with that.
    But the true believers can’t be happy with that. For them any blogger who posts a “meh” article about Obama rather than a “hurrah” article must be nagged and accused of being a traitor to the party, and usually a bitter old hag to boot. Not only will this repel the bloggers rather than make them fall in line, it will also repel their commentors and the many many more lurkers. The true believers just need to STFU, really.
    ObDisclaimer: not accusing anyone here of doing the true believer thing. Supporting your candidate because he does excite you is fine, no problem. He just doesn’t excite everybody.

  29. I guess what is pissing me off the most besides the PUMAs is not the Meh posts–I know a lot of people who are much further left than any candidate, and I understand that, as my ideal is left of there too.
    What gets me is that the liberal blogosphere here in the US believes so little in the average Midwesterner being able to see through the McCain/Palin campaign’s tactics. Yeah, Bush got re-elected, but that was four years ago, and a lot of things have gone down since then.
    I think I’m just generally angry at everyone, actually.

  30. It’s hard to get past how easily the Swiftboater claims were swallowed in 04, Bene. It’s very easy to believe that the average voter anywhere simply isn’t cynical enough about the volume of mud that gets thrown around, and thus more of it sticks than should.
    The more I read about Palin the more I think she’s an alarmingly clever choice. She has a lot of fiscal/social conservative appeal, and she gives a good speech. The stuff that creeps me out (like the smugness, not just pride, about her son in the Army and about to deploy to Iraq) will play very well to a base that’s starry-eyed about McCain’s POW backstory and contemptuous of the Washington inside-the-Beltway crowd who don’t have kids serving at all.
    I worry that the true believers will bring out the sexist ammunition against Palin even worse than they did against Clinton, and that it will backfire big time.

  31. For a lot of people very unexcited about Dems in general, either Clinton or Obama gave them, for a change, someone to get really excited about (some people were excited by both). For many Hillary fans, with her off the ticket, they’re back to being not excited any more. I can’t see how you can change that, and for those who are willing to vote Obama resignedly in order to keep McCain out, then just be happy with that.


    I worry that the true believers will bring out the sexist ammunition against Palin even worse than they did against Clinton, and that it will backfire big time.

    Yeah. I’ve been trying to figure out how we can prevent this from happening. Like a petition or something from liberal women to other liberal commentators, imploring them to not be fucking idiots and pull that kind of shit. But would that even do any good? I don’t know.
    Caras last blog post..“It’s Not a Choice, It’s a Child” — Except When It’s Beneficial To Say It’s a Choice

  32. TigTog wrote:

    Cara, I really wonder how many of the most vociferous people who voted for Clinton in the primaries and who now are threatening to vote for McCain were actually registered Democrats in the first place?

    The most plausible argument for the Palin pick I have seen is that McCain was trying to shore up two Republican constituencies. Palin assuages the Christian Right obviously, but Palin also brings back moderate Republican women who had been supporting Clinton.
    As I said it is plausible, but far from convincing.
    McCain has had a lot of problems getting the Christian Right on his side. The fundies seem to be the most excited by her elevation but everyone else is acting like she is Dan Quayle in a skirt.
    As for the disaffected Republican women demographic, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence for it. Certainly Republican women did not form the core of Hillary’s support in organization and fundraising and I don’t believe there is a lot of evidence that they formed a significant fraction of the votes she won. A lot of the primaries were not open (voters have to stick with the party they voted for in the past) and Clinton certainly did not go out of her way to appeal to Republican women.
    All in all, picking Palin hurts McCain. McCain is trying to personalize the contest, distilling all down to character and experience and picking Palin undercuts that.


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