It’s hard to contain my amusement at the misadventures of the Republican Party, whose campaign faltered once more after Obama’s successful convention and the soap operatic revelations about Sarah Palin’s family, which suggested that McCain indeed hadn’t vetted her at all beforehand:
Barack Obama has hit the crucial 50 per cent mark in the polls for the first time after an impressive Democratic convention and concerns over John McCain’s choice of the Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.
The Democratic nominee now holds an eight-point lead over Mr McCain – 50 per cent to 42 per cent – according to today’s daily tracking poll released by Gallup.
Whether or not the polls will keep that distance between the candidates is anyone’s guess, but there are clear reasons why Obama has taken a lead again. I would firstly maintain that he succeeded in presenting himself as leader-in-waiting in his nomination acceptance speech. He behaved in a presidential manner, was neither egotistical nor evasive, and most importantly came across as having sound judgment on the issues which matter to the country. Whilst the Republicans are trying to relaunch the culture wars of the last election through Sarah Palin’s VP candidature, they have an enormous two-pronged problem with the McCain/Palin ticket. Firstly it’s essentially preaching to the converted – despite the attempt to make Palin the story, she offers nothing new to the electorate outside the Republican hardcore. She also isn’t quite as in-tune even with them as they want us to think – she was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party before joining the Republicans. It’s not very American really to support secession from the Union, is it?
Country first, eh?
Rumours also persist that the fifth Palin child isn’t Governor Sarah’s after all:
Left-wing blogger sites, including the prominent Daily Kos, had been speculating that Mrs Palin’s fifth child, Trig, who was born earlier this year and diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, was in fact carried by Bristol, who would have then been 16.
There are a number of elements to the story which don’t add up, not least of which being baby Trig Palin’s not appearing on the list of births for April 18th at the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, not to mention serious inconsistencies in accounts of his relationship to the Johnston family by the Johnston family. Let me remind you that Levi Johnston is now the confirmed father of the baby 17 year old Bristol Palin is pregnant with – did Governor Palin cover up an earlier baby for legal reasons? I’m leaning on the side of probably not, but there are clearly unanswered questions about Trig which need to be addressed. Sadly though Obama disagrees, but Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen suggests the party shouldn’t see the Palin family’s complications as a no-go area:
“I think that, if anything, it makes it clearer that Democrats have to highlight that the issue isn’t what Sarah Palin and her daughter choose to do with their own family. It’s that they want to make those choices for all women,” said Rosen.
Indeed Jon Stewart’s Daily Show has this to say:
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Rush Limbaugh, the enormously influential conservative talk show host, told Politico.com that Palin had electrified the religious right, who were greeting the pick as a “home f***ing run”. He added in an email, “Palin = Guns, Babies, Jesus,” the holy trinity of Republican rightist politics. Limbaugh contrasted Palin’s life story with Barack Obama’s statement earlier in the year that some poor white voters were “bitter” – “clinging” to their faith or their guns out of fear. “Obama just lost blue-collar, white Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and other states,” predicted Limbaugh
Sarah Wildman thinks not, or at least not necessarily. As I wrote in my last post, for all her sassy bluster, Palin was still only preaching to a narrow base, that of 2000 and 2004, and the rules of the game have changed since then. Not only is the anti-Republican tide considerable, but the mainstreaming of religious anti-abortionism and homophobia has died down. It’s notable that Palin, as McCain, assiduously avoided discussion of the actual issues affecting the country (which Obama did ):
Tad Devine, who was chief strategist for Democratic candidate John Kerry’s unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2004, said Thursday: “I think the best way to respond would be to point out that she said practically nothing about the biggest issue of our time,” Devine said, listing the economy, the Iraq war and the health service.
“I think they should refrain from anything personal.”
Devine, like other Democrats, feels that the impact of Palin will quickly diminish. “I think in the end this election will come down to McCain and Obama, as they always do,” he said.
Maybe. Except even the Republicans know they can’t win a straight fight between McCain and Obama. They need (and will keep) Sarah Palin as the face, the attitude, the attack dog and (in their eyes) the embodiment of the small, petty issues which they feel will excite Americans more than the actual, substantial ones. Obama and Biden will ignore this at their cost. With gender remaining as thorny an issue in this campaign as race, the Democrats will have to tread carefully and cleverly to disarm her. I don’t believe just dismissing her will be enough.
And finally we mustn’t forget the disgrace that is John McCain himself. You may think that Jon Stewart pushes the boundaries too far when he jokes about Sarah Palin as McCain’s third wife:
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But look at this!
Skip to 3:00 on the Daily Show video to watch Samantha Bee hilariously deconstruct the Palin candidacy more effectively than any politician or commentator. Will her satirical take on identity politics be prescient for November or will it remain merely a black look at how stupid the Republican campaign thinks enough female swing (and yes PUMA) voters are? Ultimately my guess is she’ll fulfil her role as a distraction from McCain’s numerous weak points and push it to a nail biter; a former McCain strategist thinks she’s a disaster.