September 3rd, 2008


Get a grip!

The Sarah Palin nomination looks to me like a stroke of genius. She actually looks like a normal person; I can't remember the last candidate for either President or Vice-President who did. (Possibly Jimmy Carter.) There is a romantic streak in all of us that would like to see the outsider defeat the establishment, in any country, and the spirit of Jackson's victory in 1828 (and to a much lesser extent Harrison's in 1840) lives on. McCain sees himself in that mould, but has had difficulty conveying that message - candidates of the incumbent party will always find it particularly difficult to look like a new broom (the only example I can think of off-hand is Sarkozy in France last year, and look how quickly that went wrong). Palin however is clearly an outsider, a competent speaker, and as I said looks like a normal person. Whether or not Americans are really prepared to vote for someone who doesn't look like a politician remains to be seen.

The response from the Left is helping, if anything. Yes, she is inexperienced, but the Republicans obviously realised that that wasn't working as a charge against Obama, and decided to roll with it; and Obama's supporters now cannot really use Palin's inexperience against her without inviting the obvious counterattack - so what if Palin has only run a very small town and a very small state; that is still more than Obama has ever run (or, for that matter, McCain).

The news about her daughter is also a complete winner, in my view. Before it broke, rosefox had posted a very wise piece about how feminists should and shouldn't react to Palin's candidacy. The absurd and offensive Daily Kos story about Palin's own most recent pregnancy was a complete gift to Republicans, and they were absolutely right to mention it in the press spin about Bristol Palin, because it makes Democrats look really stupid. Obama's own response - that this is a private family matter, and anyway he was born to a teenage mother himself - is the only sensible one to make. It is tempting - and I've seen a lot of people succumbing to the temptation, in the blogosphere at least - to use the issue to highlight the weaknesses of the pro-life, abstinence education argument in general. I hope the Democrats on the campaign trail do not use this rhetoric; all it does is reinforce the impression of the Palins as a normal family to whom ordinary crises happen, and who then have to balance their own deeply-held beliefs against the needs of the moment. (And in any case, what influence would a Vice-President actually have on these policies? Probably less, in practice, than the Governor of Alaska.)

There are good reasons to attack Palin's judgement - her definition of clean government seems flexible enough to allow her to pursue family vendettas from the Governor's office. There are plenty of good reasons to worry about the McCain-Palin ticket; in my own area of particular interest, foreign policy, I confess I don't have a terribly clear image of what Obama's line actually is, but I have a good understanding of McCain's line - and it frightens me - and I know and respect a lot of Obama's people, which reassures me. So let's stay with the sensible stuff, OK?
white house

The election again - psephological/geographical anorakery

Actually the most interesting bit of psephological anorakery about this year's election so far is Crooked Timber's piece on the time zone biases of the candidates. The only Democratic candidate for either President or Vice-President who was living outside the Central or Eastern time zones (or at least the territory which now forms them) when nominated was Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon (who???), and he doesn't really count. Meanwhile the Republicans have had a more westerly candidate on the ticket two times out of three (and this year of course that goes for both of them).

It's probably not that significant, of course. But NB that while the Republicans won nine of the fourteen elections where they had a Western candidate, they won only one of the six where neither of their candidates was a Westerner (1988; losses in 1936, 1944, 1976, 1992 and 1996).

September Books 2) Henry VI Part 2