A Small Thought on Palin

Leaving aside any of her merits and demerits as a candidate for the office of Vice-President, I’d say that opponents of the McCain ticket would be wise to steer a million miles clear of her daughter’s pregnancy, as Obama already has done.

A lot of Bush opponents thought that hammering the guy as an alcoholic or raising questions about his possible past drug use would hurt him, or for that matter pointing out that he was an indifferent frat-boy student who largely maintained that posture into adulthood would hurt him. The thing of it is, much of that endeared him to people who could identify a lot more with that personal history than they could with his opponents, and the way Bush has chosen to acknowledge (if not openly discuss) that history has also been very strongly reconciled to evangelical narratives about sin and salvation.

There are a lot of reasons to think Palin is not a good candidate to be a heartbeat away from being President. But this is a part of her story that can very easily resonate with a lot of “Red America”. Remember that many of the discrete issues that social conservatives campaign about in public are actually much more acute and common experiences in communities that skew strongly to religious or social conservatism in their voting patterns. An educated upper-middle-class professional family can have a teenager who is pregnant, too, but that becomes more common in lower-income communities for a whole range of reasons. There are other complicating social cleavages, certainly: race skews voting patterns in different directions even among communities where teenage pregnancy is a bigger issue. But opponents of the McCain-Palin ticket would be smart to avoid appearing smug or superior about the whole matter.

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7 Responses to A Small Thought on Palin

  1. Mary Carter says:

    There but for fortune go you or I.

    That said, it is the social conservatives who have brought the discussion of unwed pregnancies and abstinence sex education into public forums. Ever since Roe v. Wade passed, it has been a constant verbal and sometimes even a physically violent public topic. And I have rarely heard social conservatives mince kind words toward so-called welfare moms’ unwed pregnancies and it was almost always with racist overtones.

    So now that Palin herself has made this announcement public, she cannot put the genie back in the bottle. It is public. And we, the public, have a duty to relate this announcement to her suitability for the highest office.

    If this “resonates with a lot of “Red America” then they ought to eat some humble pie because their public judgements towards others in this kind of situation have been harsh for decades.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Yeah, they ought. But from what I can see, they won’t. So I don’t see much to gain from trying to get them to.

  3. Mary Carter says:

    Oh, I am too old and too cranky to try to get anyone to change.

    But, day-um, the right wing hypocrisy drives me nuts!!

  4. hestal says:

    Herr Burke, you are right, the social conservatives should drop the hyprocisy and treat everyone fairly but they won’t. But once that observation is made what comes next? We just can’t go on turning the other cheek. By letting social conservatives get away with their hatred of those who are different from them, or rather who don’t belong to the right religion, or gender, or race, or have an approved sexual nature, then right will never prevail.

    Social conservatives have dominated our political life since the beginning and it is time for it to end. Their conduct constantly reminds me of Kipling’s line, “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.” Social conservatives twist the truth all the time and they turn that to their advantage. But those people who easily fall into the trap and bllindly follow the conservative party line are merely the fooled, they may or may not actually be fools. But if we, clear-eyed and smart as we are, we who know what is happening, don’t do something about their lies and their spreading of prejudice and hatred, if we merely rise superiorly above the fray, then we are the fools.

  5. Katie Davenport says:

    I agree that criticizing Palin for having a pregnant daughter would make Democrats look like jerks. It would be a pretty jerky thing to do.

    And despite the criticism of “welfare moms” in general, I doubt this will reflect badly on Palin among conservatives any more than Cheney’s gay daughter did.

    This issue IS important, but (of course!) in a subtler way. The Times reports this morning that Republicans are “worried that Democrats would use the selection of Ms. Palin to question Mr. McCain???? judgment and his ability to make crucial decisions.” Apparently Palin wasn’t seriously considered or even vetted until the day before she was announced. That IS a big deal, but is not the kind of point well-suited to our news system, since it takes more than one sentence to explain. 🙂

  6. Timothy Burke says:

    Right. Though to me the issues that come along with talking about vetting come into clearest focus when people look at her record to date of administration. As both mayor and governor, she’s already shown plenty of signs of being exactly the same kind of administrator as George Bush: someone whose makes personal loyalty to her and political loyalty to her interests the first criteria for selection, and competence or experience far less important. In one sense, she looks less corrupt as governor only because the preceding administration was extremely so (as appears the norm in Alaskan politics). If McCain was hoping to reassure independents that he’d run a completely different kind of administration, and put competence and skill first, this is not a reassuring pick. If he was hoping to reassure independents that he’d steer relatively clear of the religious right, htis is not a reassuring pick.

    But I also think that getting too obsessed with Palin in any way is a mistake: there is enough to be said about McCain himself, and his inability to cut loose from the failure of the last eight years. The issue with the war, for example, is not what’s happening right now, nor even what will happen next: it is what did happen, how we got into it and how the war was managed for its first three years, and how we’re going to avoid that kind of failure and incompetence in the future.

  7. hwc says:

    One of the mistakes the left makes is existing in an echo chamber. The Washington Post misses the Palin story; therefore, she is deemed a “surprise” candidate.

    Expand the universe of news sources a bit, and Palin is no longer a surprise at all. She has been consistently mentioned as a very attractive dark horse candidate since early 2008. After all, Newsweek had a spread on her back in October 2007. The fact that she was in contact with the McCain vetting team was first reported publicly in May 2008.

    The only surprise was that McCain went with the bold choice rather that some old timer pickling in the US Senate for 36 years or a piece of Wonderbread like Romney.

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