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Hullabaloo


Saturday, August 30, 2008

 
Maverick Mom

by digby

I'm back now (luggage is lost, naturally) and I've had some time to talk to my friends in Alaska and review what's being said about Sarah Palin. Here's the most interesting thing: my brother in law and his girlfriend, both teachers, card carrying NPR listening, Riverdance loving, Jim Lehrer watching diehard liberals .... quite like the woman. They don't like her social conservatism, but it's so prevalent in Alaska that they hardly notice it. What they like is that she took out Frank Murkowski, cancelled his secret backroom deals, sold the Governor's private jet and told the oil companies to wait in line. They like that she is giving checks from the surplus to every Alaskan to help pay for the astronomically rising costs of heating oil up there. They see her as a down-to-earth, post-partisan problem solver. Others may as well.

And obviously, she's a huge hit with the religious right. They know a genuflection when they see one and are very pleased that McCain showed them the proper respect by picking not just a social conservative, but a full blown creationist fundamentalist. They will enthusiastically vote for her and feel good about being "feminists" when they do it. (The media will likely have "learned their lesson" from the trashing they gave Hillary Clinton and will be much more careful this time. Nice how that works for the Republicans.)

So, I wouldn't be too smug about Palin. She's got something about her that the people who know her really like. She has an 85% approval rating up there, which includes quite a few liberals. Her western state appeal is an amalgam of right wing populism and libertarianism, something that shouldn't be discounted among swing voters who might also find her to be an attractive working mom who manages to run the state while taking care of her snowmobile champion husband (Arctic NASCAR) and their five kids. (A politically incorrect friend of mine in Alaska called the ticket "The Maverick and the MILF" and it may work better than we think.)

Palin is so unknown that something even more significant than "troopergate" may yet emerge. Alaskan politicians are all just one degree of separation from each other and the big money oil interests that fuel the state. Who knows what could come out? But I would not assume that her inexperience or her small state background will work against the ticket. It could play well in the western states, a couple of which are necessary for the Democrats to win in the fall.

She's obviously a disaster from my perspective -- her extreme social conservatism is an immediate disqualifier for any office, much less the vice presidency. But I really hope the Obama campaign does not take to heart some of the "advice" it's getting about going after Palin with snappy slogans over her picture that say "this is what McCain thinks is ready to lead?" After all the talk in this election about feminism, I think the Obama campaign is sensitive enough to know that that reads like a sexist dogwhistle loud enough to shatter the sound barrier. This is not a good approach.

I don't think that many Hillary followers will vote for an anti-choice zealot, but there is no point in unnecessarily suppressing the female Obama vote by thoughtlessly pushing buttons that don't need to be pushed. McCain chose Palin partially because they wanted to keep open the wounds of feminist discontent and there's no reason to help them by picking at the scabs. There are many things on which to attack her --- her social conservatism, her anti-environmental extremism, her bad policies, even her potential corruption, but her inexperience has to be handled very deftly. (To me the single best way to discredit Sarah Palin among female voters, is to attack her as a heartless extremist who would let the polar bears drown rather than admit that global warming exists.)

In truth, she doesn't really have enough experience, but a lot of the criticism I'm seeing could easily be read as both sexist and elitist. Barack doesn't have a ton of experience either, but his qualifications are made manifest by his ivy league education, cosmopolitan background, urban connections and endorsements from other powerful people. I can easily see certain rural, working class voters not being impressed with big city Dems' disdain for her "big state with no people" and her "beauty queen" background. This is the kind of thing that makes the elitist tag stick.

Luckily, I think McCain's miscalculation may have been in not recognizing that the Obama campaign just won a primary where a lot of these issues were raised and they have very recent experience dealing with it. His brain trust will know better than to fall for the easy trap. The rest of us should too.


Update: Unsurprisingly, Katha Pollit makes a good argument from the feminist perspective.

Update II: The media are helping their friends, as usual:



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