Tuesday, September 09, 2008

the palin pick

Many analysts are pointing to John McCain's pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate to explain his post-convention poll bounce, but why?

The media should have taken the pulse of the nation on the Palin pick before assuming that women would be up in arms about the choice and that informed voters would reject her. The liberal blogosphere should have given her half a second before pouncing on her, and bringing all of her personal controversies to light.

Why? Well, because the mainstream media combined with the online left may have helped to bolster Palin's image despite their efforts to tear her down. By attacking her from the moment of her announcement, Republicans were forced to learn more about her and begin defending her on day one, which has set a precedent. Because the left was so outraged at the pick, the right was automatically inspired by it.

Others will leap to Palin's defense as sexism continues to color her coverage. If some of us in the blogosphere may be thinking that Palin's large family would prohibit her from holding the office of vice president, we'd do best not to express those feelings publicly, because we would be perpetuating a sexist meme that has seeped into the American conscience: the idea that the woman's first priority is to the home.

Yes, Sarah Palin has a special needs child, a pregnant teenager, as well as three other children, but she also has a husband who can help with the parenting while she holds elected office. If it were her husband that were running for vice president, no one would even think to ask if he could hold office while presiding over a large family.

And regardless of whether or not Democrats have sexist intentions behind their comments, if the American voter perceives sexism in politics, especially if that voter is a woman, she may feel a duty to defend that person and even vote for that person. Sometimes, when the media wants to pronounce someone down and out, the American public has different ideas and forces the media to come around to the pulse of the public.

The Palin pick was not an accident. McCain knew what he was doing, whether or not you think she was fully vetted. By picking Palin, McCain utilized the element of surprise to steal attention away from Barack Obama's powerful convention speech. He knew that her feisty nature, her scrappy style of politics, her contrasting youthfulness, and her conservative chops would add considerably to his ticket. He also hoped that she might stir resentment among Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary and felt she got a raw deal.

On Barack Obama's part, Joe Biden is a solid pick. He closes holes in Obama's candidacy, namely foreign policy experience, Washington know-how, and blue-collar appeal. But Obama mainly picked Biden because he knew that Biden would actually make a decent vice president. Obama chose his Senate colleague as a running mate under the assumption that he was going to win the election. From what we have seen since the announcements, Biden has not considerably helped the Democratic ticket, but would arguably be a boon to an Obama administration if elected.

Palin's is a pure political pick, because her experience as governor of Alaska actually brings little to the table of national politics. Is it qualifying, executive experience? Sure, but how will she help McCain's administration once in office? McCain picked Palin to help him win. It is reminiscient of the long-canceled television series Commander In Chief in which Geena Davis stars as the first female president, rising to that office from vice president following the death of the president. On his deathbed, the president asks Davis' character to resign from office and allow the Speaker of the House to ascend to the presidency, reminding her that he only picked her to win the "soccer mom vote." Needless to say, she ignores his pleas and assumes the presidency.

As it turns out, Obama would have benefited greatly from picking his former opponent Hillary Clinton as his running mate. If Obama had chosen Clinton, McCain would not have chosen Palin. Because both of the running mates would be female, it would starkly contrast the two... and even Republicans can admit that Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton. I'm sure that Palin was a lock under the assumption that Obama would not choose Clinton, but had he chosen her, McCain would have been almost forced to make another choice. Without the Palin pick to shake things up, the media would have incessantly covered the new Democratic team of Obama and Clinton right through the Republican convention, and with a duller pick from McCain he arguably wouldn't have enjoyed a post-convention bounce. (Another way McCain could've shaken things up would have been to choose Joe Lieberman, but that would have opened a whole new can of worms on both sides of the aisle.)

But Obama did not choose Clinton, so what can he and Biden do now to tame Palin and take down McCain?

[This post is the first in a series about Sarah Palin and her affect on the presidential race. Stay tuned for the next installment.]

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Obama should stay on message. Hope, change, unity and the failings of the Bush/Republican adminstration. He should not allow Palin to change the conversation. If he allows her to control it, she wins.