Monday, September 01, 2008

How to Handle the Palin Candicacy

The choice of Palin as VP put the right-wing evangelicals into a state of ecstasy and reinvigorated the conservative base. Republicans are offering the most logic-defying, stupefying mental gymnastics, in producing the lamest defenses of her lack of experience, especially on foreign affairs, I have ever seen. It is breathtaking -- has more experience than Obama, Obama has less than McCain -- all totally avoiding the question about her own paper-thin resume. Is the only harm to Obama is that it may get more of them enthusiastically to the polls? Maybe, but I am a little nervous.

The Dems have to be careful how they respond to her. Biden cannot appear to be patronizing or condescending to this foreign policy novice.. If he treats her like a lady, that will prompt some women to criticize him for not considering her as an equal.

Neither can he be overly aggressive in going after her full force. If he treats her like an equal and attacks her like he would a man, he will be criticised for being a bully against this winsome, wholesome hockey mom -- thus provoking women to defend her and men to protect her. Sexism works both ways. Remember Hillary's complaints and those of her supporters.

Women will sympathize with her problems in being a working mom, and working-class moms will feel a kinship to this down to earth woman and want to identity with her.

Many men, especially the manly men of a type, may be swept into fantasizing about a beauty-queen wife who will go hunting, fishing, and riding into the wilderness with his and her guns in the pickup rack and say to hell with the fact that she has never read an article in Foreign Affairs or been in the same room with Sarkozy. She will just stand on the border of Alaska in her combat boots with her AK47 and yell over to Putin, "Don't make me come over there and show you why you better get your butt out of Georgia, and you better not burn Atlanta down." I can hear them saying, "By damn, she is the kind of real American we need to send to Washington to straighten things out."

Many of these men and women are in demographic groups in which Obama has not done well-- small town and rural America and in the blue-collar, old industrial regions -- land of the Reagan Democrats. Hillary Clinton and Bill did do well, and they must help out in these areas, along with Biden.

Women will need to take the lead in demolishing her on all fronts. Dangerous for a man if not done just right -- remember the Hillary women's complaint against Obama, the press, and the world. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida has set the example. She sliced the lady from Alaska into small pieces with a few well-chosen words.

At first I thought the best line of attack was to expose her as the right-wing extremist that she is -- out of the main stream.  But I have reconsidered. I think both campaigns will rightly play  down the culture wars because that is not where it's at this year. People -- with Democratic help if necessary-- will learn her social and cultural views and react accordingly, but this is not decisive this time around.

The question is whether her visceral, emotional appeal to a certain class of voters can be overcome by making people aware of what the McCain-Palin team will -- mostly won't -- do to help struggling Americans find jobs with decent wages and benefits, keep their houses, afford health care, secure child care when both parents work, and the like.

Is it possible to break through the spontaneous affection of those who have fallen in love with  this seductively charming woman to confront people with hard reality? Will image and a sense of identification with her trump competence on issues of national policy about which Republicans have little or nothing to offer ordinary hard-working, struggling Americans?

She is Annie Oakley who looks good in combat boots and June Allyson or Julie Andrews in high heels. She is fresh, charming, has a good story to tell, and represents a kind of wholesome, unassuming American type that many ordinary people in small towns and rural areas will find compelling -- the kind of real American we office.

She may self-destruct, other revelations may doom her, her early enthusiasts may become disillusioned. Reluctant Hillary supporters may be driven toward Obama. Moderates and independents may turn against her. Who knows?

McCain may come out looking like a political genius or an idiot. As my son-in-law says, "We live in interesting times."

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