Well, when we all went to bed on Thursday night, we didn’t dream that we’d be thinking and talking about the Governor of Alaska all day Friday now, did we? Maybe the McCain campaign has more chops than Democrats would like to believe.
Palin’s biography and career seem to be tailor-made for the McCain campaign. Western state governor? Check. “Family values” conservative? Check. Lifelong NRA member? Check. Washington outsider? Check. Appealing family? Check. Not a millionaire? Check. Regular joe husband? Check. Looks good in Camo and eats what she kills? Check. Reinforces McCain’s “Maverick” image? Check. Reputation as a reformer? Check. Proves Historiann’s point about how great Republicans are at using biography to drive a campaign narrative? Check.
Ability to drive so-called “liberals” crazy and expose the misogyny that drives so-called “progressive” politics? Check!
Never mind that several of the men bandied about as possible VP picks had no more experience than Palin, and we never heard what a totally ridiculous choice other first-term governors like Tim Kaine, Charlie Christ, or Bobby Jindal would be. (No–youth and relative inexperience in a male candidates make them “bold” choices about “change” and “the future!”) So-called “liberals” like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher immediately started yukking it up about her “beauty pageant” experience. So-called “progressive” women in the media are at it, too: I made the mistake of flicking past the Randi Rhoads show this Friday afternoon just in time to hear her go after Palin in the same demeaning language that she used during the primary when speaking about Hillary Clinton, and apparently Stephanie Miller called Palin a “bimbo.” (And you don’t even want to know what the boyz on teh “liberal” blogs are saying.) Never mind that Palin ran against a sitting governor in her own party (Frank Murkowski), beat him in the primary, and then beat a former Democratic governor in the general in 2006. Say what you will about her policies and her stand on the issues, but the girl knows what she’s doing. As this commenter said at TalkLeft, “Yes, women are either too old, too status quo, or too young. A guy is either seasoned, or a bold and fresh choice.” See how easy that is! We can always find a reason to hate on women politicians and hold them to impossible standards, but it’s so easy to forgive a man any perceived vulnerabilities. (Remember all of those pious insistences from all of your incredibly liberal, well-meaning, and totally feminist friends that “I would love a woman president, just not this one,” ?)
Don’t get me wrong: I won’t vote for McCain/Palin, and I’m pretty darned sure the vast majority of liberal feminists won’t either, because we think Palin is wrong on the issues. But the choice of Palin isn’t really about picking up votes from people like me, it’s about 1) shoring up the cultural conservatives in the Republican base, and 2) reaching out to independent and moderate Republican women, who were appalled at the way that Hillary Clinton was savaged by the media and her own party, and 3) possibly depressing the Democratic women’s vote. If Palin does reasonably well and avoids making any obvious gaffes, she could really help McCain. (James Dobson climbed up on his Unity Pony, and that ain’t hay.) I had coffee yesterday Thursday with a Republican friend who couldn’t believe that Obama didn’t pick Clinton for VP. “He would have won in a landslide if he had,” she said, and an e-mail from her today Friday sounds like she’s paying close attention to Sarah Palin. Another friend, a Republican who’s become disgusted by her party in the Bush years, sat in my office today Friday and told me that she’s giving the McCain ticket a serious look because she likes the notion of a Westerner and a hunter as a VP. And there’s no question but that Palin’s stance as a tough working mother appeals to me and my friends, across partisan lines.
So, go ahead Democrats and the Obama campaign, and make fun of Sarah Palin. Mock her for her supposed inexperience and small-town background. Make fun of her because she was in a beauty pageant. Demean her because she’s the governor of Alaska, and not a more populous state. (A lot of people in the large square states take that kinda personally, and I thought you were looking for votes out here. Besides: Delaware?) Democrats have gotten really good at not taking their opponents seriously and acting superior to them. Any fool could see how completely superior Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry were to their opponents! But guess what we’re not so good at? Winning presidential elections. Go ahead and have a laugh–you can cry in November when you realize that the voters never thought you were laughing about Sarah Palin–they think you’re laughing at them!
NOTE: Edited slightly to clarify the timeline–when I wrote this post, sleepless in the middle of the night, I was still thinking of Friday as “today,” when of course it was very early Saturday morning.