The polls are shifting not so well for Obama (Tremors!) and there are lots and lots of theories. I am swayed by the idea that Sara Palin is having an impact on the race. Conservatives love her, and they are rallying around McCain in response. I will give an additional critique of Palin to add to what PD Dude has said.
I am bothered that many people seem to treat Palin without ANY scrutiny. She is a fresh face in politics, she's pretty, and she has very little political history from which to judge her. She also has a multi-multi-million dollar attack machine behind her known as the GOP to get her message shaped. It is in this context that we should look at Palin.
First, how did we get here? McCain was probably desperate after looking at the polls and seeing Obama's convention speech, and he wanted a "game changer." You don't need to believe me. The reports are there that McCain was going to pick Lieberman or Romney, but he realized he wasn't going to win that way. He wanted someone who would energize the Republican base and who wouldn't detract. He went deep, deep into the bench (more precisely, he picked from the grandstands) to find Palin. She is a perfect example of the politics of today and how some people win who otherwise wouldn't.
Those of you who remember what happened to Governor Gray Davis in California will understand this. In 2003 Governor Gray Davis was deeply unpopular. California has been truly mismanaged for years, thanks to an uninformed electorate scolded by lots and lots of "special interests." Davis won re-election in 2002 through a deeply cynical maneuver: He should have faced Richard Riordan, a very popular Republican mayor of Los Angeles. But the problem with Republicans is that they won't elect those who fall a little outside orthodoxy. Riordan was pro-gay rights and pro-abortion, two really big no-no's for a Republican. But he was highly popular, and very likely could have beaten Davis. So Davis intervened in the Republican primary and spent millions of dollars trashing Riordan by saying those two things: he was pro-gay and pro-abortion. These two issues would have HELPED him in the general election, and they were pretty much the same positions held by Davis. But this was toxic to the Republicans. Bill Simon, a very conservative Republican, beat Riordan and then went on to lose. It was inevitable. Simon was great for the Republicans, but no one else liked him. Davis was tolerable by comparison and he cake walked to victory. The Republicans were pissed.
They got even when Davis kept stumbling. Davis got gamed by Enron and others, and he just couldn't bring himself to raise electricity rates (or undo the whole "open market" electricity thing that was being gamed by private electricity companies). People in California are, were, and have been pissed for a long time about how their government is so dysfunctional. Davis was a great example of what people hate in politicians. Although he is a Democrat, he mercilessly shook down the teachers union for campaign contributions, and even changed some of his core positions when the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) cut him some checks. He just didn't seem to have any moral center, and he didn't have many supporters when he needed it. He even took some money from energy companies like Enron, and this made it look like he was dragging his feet and costing California billions. Voters were mad.
The recall election in 2003 was the first time ever that a state public official was removed from office in California, although 17 other recall efforts had been done before. It was ugly. Davis was removed by a margin of 55.4% to 44.6%. Schwarzenegger was then elected governor (by the same ballot) with 48.6 percent of the vote. Schwarzenegger would NEVER, EVER have made it through the Republican primary process. Just ask some Republicans now how much they like Schwarzenegger and they will likely say that he is a "Socialist," or a "Democrat," or some other epithet that they hate. Point is, only through this extraordinary process did Schwarzenegger come to office.
One to Palin. Palin supports abstinence-only education, and that means what it says: no sex ed in the schools. This isn't just her opinion, but the opinion of someone a heartbeat away from the presidency. She has a 17 year old daughter who is now pregnant. Palin denied funds recently (she used her line-item veto and zeroed the funds out) to a home for underage, unwed mothers, particularly those suffering from domestic violence. Message: I don't want your kids taught about sex education on the government's dime, and I don't want poor unwed mothers cared for on the government's dime, but I, myself, have a 17 year old who didn't get the message and is having a child early. Palin's own pregnancy is the subject of some really questionable judgment about why she flew 8+ hours from Texas (after waiting hours to give a speech), then drove to a little hospital, all after she was leaking amniotic fluid (technically she was in labor) one month early with a special needs child (i.e. Down syndrome).
Palin lied about the bridge to nowhere (she advocated for it, then claimed in her first national address that she said "no thanks") and lied when claims to be against earmarks, yet eagerly sought them both as mayor of a small town and as governor of Alaska.
As governor, Palin sought to fire her sister's ex-husband from the state police (and if what he did was true, he no doubt is a jerk), then instead fired the head of the state police (also a jerk who probably deserved to be fired) when he refused to fire the guy she wanted to be fired. But then she lied about the whole thing and has repeatedly sought to have the whole investigation placed under the control of a three person panel that she controls.
Palin tried to get the librarian to ban certain books from the library because she thought they were offensive, and when the librarian refused to do so, Palin started the process to fire her.
Palin did a nasty speech at the Republican convention where she mocked Obama's time as a "community organizer" and essentially labeled him as a guy with no real experience. What chutzpah. But now she hides from the press, afraid of what questions they might ask HER about HER experience, and the issues above. Her surrogates in the media, meanwhile, blow smoke about legitimate questions about her, claiming that such questions are really about the fact that she has 5 kids (So what?), or that she is a woman and Democrats are being sexist (Wow!). Never mind the fact that she is simply a political unknown,and she hasn't been through the process to find out who she is and what she stands for.
And that is actually the point I was getting at regarding Schwarzenegger. He was a political nobody, with no previous office experience. He would have been eaten alive in the Republican primary because he is a "creature of Hollywood" and he is, in fact, a closet moderate. Republicans would have avoided him if they had the chance. Palin, on the other hand, would have been a darling of the Republicans. Until, of course, someone like Huckabee, or Romney, tore her apart for her clear lack of experience. Now she is the #2 girl to the oldest man to seek the presidency ever. McCain is 72. He's got a great chance of dying in office, and Palin will then take his place.
Hats off to Republicans for getting their "stealth candidate" into the ring. I have no doubt that, between her and McCain that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. I have no doubt that people will grow more and more pissed at their dysfunctional government. I sure hate to lose this round (and I hated losing when Bush took it in 2000 and 2004), but I know that, if McCain wins, the American people will be getting exactly what we deserve. Maybe not what we want, but definitely what we deserve.
The Guest PD Blogger