Thursday, October 30, 2008

Choice of Palin has Sealed McCain's Fate

To turn an old saying around, it's far better (for Obama) to have a foolish opponent than a wise friend. And McCain has totally obliged.

Forget GWB's abysmal ratings. Forget the economy. Forget the Iraq war. Till the end of the Democratic Convention McCain still had a more than even chance of occupying the White House. His biggest card was the split among the Democrats, and Hillary supporters just wanting an excuse to vote for him.

Basic politico-economic theory and conventional wisdom both required him to veer to the center. Any of the speculated VP choices would have been fine - Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman, even Mitt Romney and just may be Tim Pawlenty, as they all had their respective strengths.

A stance that would dilute the pro-life message, raise the prospect of restoring taxes for the ultra-rich, call for more regulation and expanded healthcare would turn off the hardcore right, but not enough to withdraw or switch support, when they see Obama as the alternative. Yet McCain could this way pick up a lot of the disgruntled Hillariites, and the undecided and independent voters.

But then he went ahead and picked Sarah Palin. What was he thinking? That just because she has the right plumbing (as a Hillary supporter put it to me) she'd get the Hillary women to back the ticket?

In addition to her obvious lack of experience she's so far to the right as to be almost a caricature of the ideology that's distateful to Democrats and most independents. McCain seemed smugly happy about the surprise he had pulled off, and about her almost rapturous reception by the hardcore right. "Trust McCain to shake things up" said a lackey on TV as Sarah's introduction started just ahead of the Republican Convention. But you need to shake things up when your outlook is bleak and the current course seems to be failing, and not when you have so many strong cards in your suit.

There are of course many other deficiencies in his campaign. When the economy is the number one concern you don't see a single economist of repute among his advisers. Ditto on other issues. The negative ads are horribly conceived and destroy his clean guy image without getting an effective message across. But these blunders I think pale in comparison to Palin (pun intended.)

The end result is obvious now, with McCain trailing Obama by 8 points nationally just six days before election day. Hillary supporters and independents have been shocked back into Obama's camp, and talk of voting against Obama out of spite has all but evaporated. I had anticipated this as my comments of September 1st and September 15 (when McCain was still doing well in the polls) on my August 1st post show. To a large extent McCain's choice of Palin is indicative of the quality of his decision-making as President. The maverick has turned ultra conservative, which I see as an act of misplaced expediency and even cowardice. McCain is paying the price and has only himself to thank for it.

I'm guessing Obama is silently but ardently thanking him too.


Anonymous said...

The way the Dems have attacked Palin indicates the choice of the Alaska govenor is the right choice for the GOP. As the saying goes,"May I be judged by the quality of my enemies." She was designed to attract conservatives who was cool to McCain's moderate social stance on issues like abortion and guns.

I don't think the dynamics would have changed much if he chose a Liberman or Pawlenty. If he did, we would have been talking about why he was down because of Liberman or Pawlenty. But he had to ignite the base.

To be fair, I think Palin has been a bigger asset than Biden has been to the Dems. Just like there are theories that LB Johnson had Kennedy killed because JFK didn't have the Washington savvy and was just an idealist, I hear similar theories about Biden from the left.

Now I'm not much of a conspiracy buff because there has to be too many moving parts. Nonetheless, I've been asked by two pollsters about my concern about an assasination of Obama. Besides, Biden has been seen pulling his foot out of his mouth on several occasions.


Sandip Madan said...

We'll differ on this, Kenrod. If McCain had picked a moderate, preferably a pro-choicer, can you imagine the right wing crossing over to Obama? Their threat to stay home also largely rings hollow.

First, their dislike for Obama will trump lack of enthusiasm for McCain, much like the Hillary camp is now galvanized against the Republican ticket. Secondly, the polling is also for other political offices, so many intending voters will show up anyway, and I doubt a large number will leave the box to mark their Presidential choice blank. Also, most right -wingers are an opinionated lot, and it's hard to keep 'em away from the polls. :-)

No, I believe the Palin choice has deservedly sounded the death knell for McCain's campaign. And the hard right that scared McCain off from more moderate choices should also be congratulating themselves for enabling Obama to assume office.

Anonymous said...

You may be correct that the right wing is opinionated. In fact, the right-to-life issue is the most single galvanizing point for this segment. They would have turned out anyway.

But the rest of the evangelicals were dilly dallying. In fact, Obama went to several churches to try to court the vote, which normally, he would have surrendered like most Dems have in the past. So Palin was there to solidfy those votes.

I find she draws more crowds than even McCain. Put it this way... she is more loved by her supporters and hated by her opponents than Biden, McCain or Obama. But she doesn't bring over many moderates.

The other issue is where the GOP is going. Is the party going to be hostage to the social conservatives at the expense of the fiscal conservatives? Reaganism, which was both social and fiscal conservatism, for the time being is on hold. McCain should have taken the party along the lines of social moderation but fiscal right wing.

I suspect McCain would have lost anyway because the tide was so much against him. First, winning a third term for an incumbent party is tough. Even when George HW Bush won in 1988 after two Reagan terms, he only could hang on for 4 years. Second, GWB is extremely unpopular. Third, young voters are registering with the Dems over GOP at the rate of 4:1, and overall ages at the rate of 3:1. Fourth, there was a Wall street meltdown in Sept/Oct. Fifth, McCain is not electrifying. Sixth, he is just an old dinosaur and he loves his Palintologist.

Your next blog should be about how the next admin would look like. I suspect he's going to be the captain of a Titanic.


Sandip Madan said...

Too early to say how Obama will do, though he seems to be open to advice and chosen advisors reasonably well (Rev. Wright excluded.)

Your point about social moderation and fiscal conservatism (though with heavier regulation in view of the financial crisis) is well taken.

McCain and the conservatives have plenty of ways to console themselves about their impending loss. They can cite the state of the economy, the historical trends about a third term in office, etc. But consider the bitter divisions within the Democratic Party in the primaries season, and a backlash among some mainstream voters at the racial perceptions of a 90% black support for Obama in the primaries.

Therefore I think the Presidential election was McCain's to lose. And aided by the extreme right he just seems to have roundly obliged Obama.

Anonymous said...

The question was why Mccain never brought up Rev. Wright. I think he didn't want to inflame racial tensions, much to his credit. I think Obama is far more radical than he leads us to believe.

But coming back to the Palin choice, the right-to-life segment is the most single issue vote probably after the gay right advocates from the left. The Dems will be hostage to the social left for the next four years because they felt they brought him here.

And the gays are far more extreme than the right-to-lifers. Though I'm not an extreme right-to-lifer, I think their position is quite moderate except when they bomb abortion clinics. After all, is the other side pro death??? Nor can the other side can't argue they are pro abortion and want everyone to have one. And if they argue their point too vociferously they sound like bed hoppers and wife swappers, or molesters of some kind.

But look at the gay rights segment,... they are always in your face. I'm straight but I don't have to parade out in the street that I like girls more. I think that will be the worst part of the next four years, watching the social left trying to exert their influence.

Sandip Madan said...

Anonymous, it's a matter of perception, and there's also a very different view of where social liberals are coming from. Rather than being "in your face" as you put it, they espouse an MYOB approach.

If a woman wants an abortion they say it's her choice - who are others to interfere? If gays want to marry, same thing. Why should we stop them if it doesn't affect us?

I know the Evangelicals and social conservatives advance all kinds of logic to intervene, like not wanting to stand by while unborn children are being murdered, or notions about God's plans (as if only they know) about men and women. I don't subscribe to this approach and used to joke with a straight male homophobic friend that we should welcome gays among men as they lessen our competition for women. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sandip, I wish it was as simple as MYOB, but gay activists are always in your face approch. Here they are defacing Mormon temples because that church refuses to endorse their behavior. I mean I don't go around telling everyone "I'm straight, I'm straight." Why should we tolerate gay parades portraying leud behavior? And should we just allow everyone to marry anyone? How about if we allow Barney Frank to marry his own sister, or dog? Shall we just MYOB?


Sandip Madan said...

Kenrod, the exhibitionist gay activists are about as representative of gays as the loonies creating disturbances and assaulting doctors outside Planned Parenthood clinics represent the Pro-Life adherents.

I also think a lot of the gay behavior you find objectionable is a defensive reaction to the widespread derision of their orientation and lifestyle. I too had prejudices in the past, and it was a revelation to me that gay orientation is (more) inborn rather than acquired.

To your other point we shouldn't over-generalize but I tend to be leery of criminalizing victimless behavior. Incestuous marriages may be outlawed because they are likely to result in abnormal children who are victims.

But if that were taken out of the equation (say, if the woman is sterilized) I'm fine with society counselling against incestuous relationships but not outlawing them. And similarly unless it's an animal cruelty issue, I don't see why bestiality should be criminalized.