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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Logic, and Risk, of Sarah Palin

John McCain’s surprise pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin makes a whole lot of sense in a whole lot of ways. Most of the talk right now is about her supposed appeal to disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, or undecided women voters generally. But the more fundamental reality is this: She is absolutely the only available veep who simultaneously pleases hard-core conservatives while offering reinforcement of McCain’s “maverick” image. And that happens to be, as I’ve said about a million times, the central gamble of the McCain candidacy.
Palin’s a heroine to the Cultural Right for one simple reason: she recently carried a pregnancy to term despite knowing that the child would likely suffer from Down’s Syndrome. In combination with her unambivalent anti-choice (and anti-gay-marriage) views, this makes her the ideal female candidate for the Christian Right (her own religious views are a bit hazy; she’s usually described as a “non-denominational Protestant”).
Economic conservatives like her too, partly because of her advocacy for oil drilling everywhere, especially in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and partly because she’s the bitter enemy of an Alaska GOP establishment long considered (strange as it may seem) dangerously liberal by most conservatives.
And that gets to the other central advantage she offers McCain: already, on Fox News, the spinners are endlessly talking about her as an “above party” reformer. Never mind that she represents the central thrust of an attempted hard-right takeover of the Alaska GOP: all that matters is that she’s criticized other Republicans. (She’s also gone after oil companies, even as she supports policies that would increase their already-bloated profits–much like McCain).
So even aside from the gender issue, Palin represents a veep who reinforces McCain’s message, except in one crucial respect: she has zero national security experience.
And that’s quite a gamble for a 72-year-old (as of today) presidential candidate who’s tried to make national security the central differentiator between himself and Obama.
The one immediate problem for Palin is that she’s been involved in a bit of a scandal involving her efforts to get a state trooper fired for (allegedly) abusing her sister during a brief marriage. That’s probably why at least one Fox spinner said she’s be able to attract attention to the issue of “violence against women” (not coincidentally, Joe Biden was the author of the Violence Against Women Act).
So: for all the gabbing we are going to hear about McCain’s “unconventional” veep choice, she really represents a doubling-down of his duplicitous effort to champion very conservative policies while posing as an independent “maverick.”

2 comments on “The Logic, and Risk, of Sarah Palin

  1. nfreeman on

    Let me get this straight, the Republican party says that a candidate who spent 8 years representing more than 220 thousand people in a state legislature and spent the last 4 years as a United State Senator is unqualified to assume the powers of office but a candidate who has been Governor for 17 months and before that was the part-time mayor of a town of 6 thousand is qualified?
    I’m sorry but this just plain ridiculous. This is Dan Quayle level absurd.


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