Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain/Palin: Can I Still Get Behind the Ticket?

So McCain surprised the lot of us when he picked Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate Friday, and his decision and Palin’s background have been the talk of the town since. I am still trying to wrap my head around what this means for McCain and my support for his campaign. Coming from the left, I will give you a rundown of what I like about her, and what I don’t, and weigh whether I can still give my support to the McCain ticket.

1. She helped clean up Alaskan state politics. Alaska has been a state notorious for corruption, and the previous Republican Governor Murkowski sure didn’t help the situation. Palin took on a standing Governor within her own party, and forced him out of office over his pork bail centered policies. Obama can talk about change and reform, but taking on your own party and risking your political career takes more than flowery language, and Palin surely risked a lot in taking on corrupt politicians in her own party. It is one thing to condemn the opposition for their missteps, it is another entirely to stand against your own clan and call them out for their deception and deceit. She should be commended for that.

2. She is young, pretty, and has one of those biographical backgrounds that make for a good movie. While I despise the identity politics that has plagued the American system for the last 20 years, having a women from a rather modest background (and who has a real blue collar, union card carrying husband) rise to VP slot on a major party’s ticket is a positive thing. I don’t get the feeling that Palin’s hometown charm is fake or artificially constructed, and that can be refreshing. Even though I like to consider myself elegant enough not to be swayed by the personal aspect that fuels the stories built in these campaigns, I can’t help but be a little excited about having a black President or a female vice-President. I try to put that youthful excitement aside when picking a candidate, but it surely plays a part in this campaign, and McCain was smart to pick someone that could inject some historic enthusiasm into his fight.

1. She is a social conservative. She is against abortion, even in cases dealing with rape or incest. She opposes gay marriage, and supported amending the constitution to forbid it. I personally believe gay marriage should be allowed, and that a nation that prides itself on its freedom and justice for all, can not morally deny individuals the right to make legal partnerships with those they love. Understandably, McCain has also opposed gay marriage (Obama hasn’t, but he has said it was up to States to decide, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement), but I find Palin’s commitment to the constitutional amendment more committed than McCain’s. If McCain wanted to court the social conservatives, he would have made his apparent opposition to Roe vs. Wade a central part of his campaign, something he hasn’t done. To her credit, Palin recently gave birth to a child with Down syndrome, a symptom she knew about before the child was born, and still decided to keep the child; she is clearly dedicated to the pro-life cause. I however, am not, and I have issues supporting someone who is opposed to abortion in all cases.

Her stance on creationism is also troubling. E.D. has brought this up in a previous post, but it sounds to me like she was willing to cede ground on this issue without committing herself to it. By saying she is accepting of “debate” on this subject makes her sound like all the other creationist loons who claim they just want “debate” and “discussion.” If they actually looked into the facts, they would recognize there was already debate on the subject and they lost soundly, and I would prefer to see my politicians stand up against these anti-science theocrats than coddle them.

2. She has little experience. Sure, she has more "executive" experience than any of the folks running at the moment, but does being the Governor of Alaska for 2 years really make her qualified to lead the free world? I don’t think it does. Having said that, the Obama camp needs to be careful how they criticize her and the experience issue; those in glass houses and all. At least the McCain ticket has it in the right order; the top is highly experienced and ready to lead, and the second in command is less so, unlike Obama’s campaign. But I would personally like to see both places on the ticket as possible Presidents, and Palin just doesn’t have that background yet. This is going to be the big question posed to the McCain camp over the next few weeks, and Palin is going to need to perform adequately at the debates to squelch these concerns.

3. It is not yet clear what her association was with known racist and moron extraordinaire, Pat Buchannan. Harry’s Place has jumped on the meme that she was a supporter of his in 1996, as have other left leaning sites. I would like to know exactly what she thinks of the man, then and now. Going back to glass houses, I know I shouldn’t be too critical of someone’s past associations (being on the radical left for years, I supported plenty of appalling individuals), but I believe she should make clear how close she was to his campaigns and his ideology. If she explains that she supported his 1996 campaign because she saw him as a reformer, but did not know about his less than savory ideas and repudiated those ideas, she could put it to rest. I don’t want to say that this is a breaking point for me, but it would be hard for me to vote for someone who supports a racist Jew hater like Buchanan.


I believe McCain’s Palin pick is a purely calculated move, and one that does undercut the ‘experience’ meme he has fostered throughout the campaign. If McCain really wanted to buck the establishment, and pick a candidate that is both bipartisan and risky, he would have picked Joe Lieberman. A man whose characteristics and positions I believe the American political system needs more of. Facing a rebellion within his own party over that pick, and looking to attract the 18 million Clinton supporters, he chose a woman that has a lot going for her, but does not bring time tested experience to the ticket I am looking for. At the same time, it reinforces the image McCain has built that he is a maverick willing to buck to the establishment to make government work. Furthermore, he picked an individual that was going to make the social conservatives happy, but piss off folks like myself who have supported McCain from the start of his campaign. I will likely still vote for McCain in November, even if Palin’s support for the war in Iraq seems more lukewarm than McCain’s, and even if I have a difficult time stomaching her more socially conservative positions. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have an ideal ticket up for grabs, and that compromise is understandable and acceptable. I have said in the past that I am a one issue voter, and as long as McCain does not backpedal on democracy promotion, I will still see him as a superior candidate to Obama.


Cokey McCokerson said...

It's also interesting the McCain's met her just a few times. In my opinion, I don't think McCain picked her as a maverick move, I think McCain picked her because of the now core base of the Republican party hating his other top choices (Lieberman, Pawlenty, Ridge, or Romney) and in essence, they forced him to put a radical social conservative on the ticket.

Huckabee only had social conservatism going for him, so he was never going to be on the ticket, but Palin does have actual conservative political ideals. It is a strange partnership to say the least. I just hope the McCain camp will tell her what the VP does so she'll finally know.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Since I don't have to vote, my analysis was amazingly simple: nice chick at last! Wow.

Daniel Stark said...

It was long shot choice that I was shooting for (though I wanted Pawlenty more) yet now have regrets about. Pawlenty was such a safer choice.

My view on both Obama's and McCain's picks:

Should have picked Bayh.

Should have picked Pawlenty.

Oh well, I still support the ticket. Social issues aren't my main concern (I'm center-left on them), so I'm not fazed. If it makes you feel better Dodds, McCain really wanted to pick Lieberman (though would have suffered a floor fight at the convention):

I wouldn't be surprised if Lieberman gets a position in a McCain administration.

Roland Dodds said...

Palin does get him the best of both world’s in a way: he now has a social con on the ticket to make those folks happy, and someone who can bring some enthusiasm and historical presidency to the ticket. I don’t think he was forced to do this by the soc-cons, as they would have accepted Pawlenty and Crist. I would have been happier with a more conventional pick, but with the way politics has been going these days, identity politics now trumps experience and the like.

As for her comments about not knowing what the VP does, when I watch the whole clip and not the one I have seen on msnbc and the like, she goes on to say that she wants a position that is busy and active. She was trying to say that she wasn’t looking for a ceremonial VP spot who attends funerals, at least that’s the way it sounds to me.

Daniel Stark said...

No, no. No way Pawlenty could have generated the amount of attention Palin got (7 million dollars in a day). Social conservatives will actually campaign for the ticket now, that's a plus politically.

With Pawlenty they would have got about half of the attention Palin is getting now and Crist would have been dogged by homosexual rumors (which is entirely baseless and unfair).

The social conservatives were thought of in mind when McCain made this choice (along with her image as a reformer and a possibility to ride the coattails of HRC). If this were a perfect world, and if the Republican party didn't have the leg of social conservatism barking at the thought of a pro-choice running mate, McCain would have picked Lieberman.

I say let them have their bone and help elect McCain to become President. McCain will be in charge, and though he is honestly a conservative on social issues, he is more pragmatic (more a proponent of federalism when it comes to issues of values).

Cokey McCokerson said...

If I know I'm being vetted for a possible VP nomination, the first question I'd ask would be, "What the hell am I to do?" But as long as she doesn't keep a man sized safe (which for some reason creeps the bejesus out of me) in her office, I'm ok with her as long as McCain doesn't kick the bucket.

My real feeling on the logic behind this pick is McCain, if he loses in November, doesn't want to poison any big name Republican's name and image. By taking a huge risk, he also did plenty to curtail Obama's momentum from a pretty well delivered speech. How many people were talking about McCain's pick vs Obama's speech on Friday? Most of what I heard and read was all McCain.

Roland Dodds said...

You are right, Pawlenty would not have garnered as much attention as Palin has gotten in the last few days. I also know that McCain still has problems with the right of his party, so making them happy isn’t a terrible thing when it comes to trying to get elected. I hate the conservative Christian wing however, and it roils me to see moderates bow to their demands. Necessary? probably. Desirable? I don’t think so.

Cokey: I sure hope they have an understanding as to what her VP will actually do. I can only assume it came up, but hell if I know.

I considered the idea that he picked her so that if he lost, the ticket had a moderate and social con on it, so the right wing couldn’t claim “See, that’s what we get for letting the McCain end of the Republican Party lead things.” I sadly think that even with Palin on the ticket, if they are to lose, the Limbaugh’s and Christian Right are going to argue push back in the party and force the next candidate to be an unelectable right-winger. Having McCain run this year is a godsend to the right for two reasons: McCain is really the only kind of Republican that can win this year to begin with, and if he loses, the hardcore can say it was because he wasn’t conservative enough. They win either way in that regard.

I advocate that all elected officials keep body sized safes, just to keep their opposition in check.

If Palin comes off strong in the next 2 months, McCain will win the election, which is something I have not felt could happen in the last few months. If she falters and makes big mistakes, its going to call into question McCain’s judgment, and he will lose soundly.

NeoConstant said...

Well, if the soc-cons and far-righties argue that a McCain loss means we need a stauncher conservative, and the Obama win enforces the notion in the Dems that a far-left ticket is the best, all we get in the next election is the two extreme wings of the party battling it out.

I want a centrist party. My ideal party is strong defense, fiscal responsibility, low taxes, and social tolerance. Less government in our wallets and in our bedrooms, doing what they do best: keeping us safe, and spreading democracy.

Doug @ Home said...

I'm an independent, who is solidly moderate on both fiscal and social issues. Personally, prior to the VP choice, I could live with either a McCain or Obama presidency.

When McCain selected Palin for VP, it certainly set off some red flags for me and I definitely saw it as caving to the conservative wing of the Republican party.

I can live with throwing a small bone to the conservative wing, but I don't see the VP as a small bone, especially with McCain's age. I know he thinks he'll see 100, but I'm not willing to bank on that.

What put me over the top was watching the Wasilla Assembly of God church videos on youtube and pairing that with her associations to the Alaska Independence Party. I can live with the conservative wing, but not with the fringe conservative wing.

I don't know what the outcome is going to be, but the Palin choice is motivating moderates like me to become politically active this election.

I would do the same if the Dems went off the deep end, but I think moderates have to do more than just hold their noses.

The New Centrist said...

"I know he thinks he'll see 100, but I'm not willing to bank on that."

McCain has some good genes. His mom is 96 and looks very healthy for her age.

Palin was a smart and strategic choice for VP. She's not my choice (I prefer Lieberman) but we both know Lieberman would not have mobilized social conservatives the way Palin has.

NeoConstant said...


Lieberman would have mobilized the social-cons in the exact opposite direction.

Watching the Palin/McCain rallies, one can sense a great deal of energy not present before. Lieberman would have inspired social-cons to stay home, though he may have reeled in some moderates and centrists.

I simply don't think the moderate/independent bloc is as strong or as motivated as the evangelical bloc...

TNC said...

"Lieberman would have mobilized the social-cons in the exact opposite direction."

Absolutely. Just because he was my preferred candidate does not mean he was the best candidate. At least if McCain wants to win...