Friday, September 05, 2008

more on Palin's genius

During the past week, as I have strayed once more into the dangerous waters of political analysis, no longer content to sit by and let my friends have all the fun; I hope I have stayed true to my aims to declare the lack of clothing worn by the emperors and not become a partisan hack declaring my affinity and loyalty to a particular brand of political partydom (which I do not).

Saying that, after watching the Palin as Vice President psychodrama for a full week, I am even more impressed by the diabolical genius that is her rise and nomination. While many commentators and bloggers assumed her addition to the ticket was a cynical (and I will use that term judiciously) attempt to get disaffected Hillary supports, that has hopefully been pushed to the roadside for the weightier reasons for her pick. These more compelling reasons show some of the same strength the Republicans have always shown for campaigning (it also shows that winning has always been of more importance to Republican politicians than governance*).

While we cannot dismiss the desire of McCain and the party to gain access to the loyal Hillary women, it is obvious from the lack of time Palin spent mentioning Hillary along Palin's red meat (caribou?) fed to the delegates at the convention that this is not their primary aim.

It is now obvious that the reason for the inclusion of Palin is her appeal to the base, which is now giving money, offering to volunteer and complaining about the media's Liberal bias. Why?Because the media is stupid enough to play right into the Br'er Rabbit Republican admonition not to be thrown into the Brier patch. Palin gives the Republicans the candidate they need to rally around on core Religious Right issues while playing the gender card and acting as if they are on the higher moral plane (seriously, cynically smart- you Democrats could never pull this off). This is Rovian contempt for the media circus you create and taking the strengths of the other and making them yours at its best. By the way, I think Palin united 2 bases this week, Democrats also.

The second reason for her nomination was shown to me yesterday. Newt Gingrich alerted me to the masterstroke during an interview with Jon Stewart on Wednesday night. As Jon asked the question we have heard multiple times regarding Palin's presence robbing McCain of his strongest argument against an Obama presidency (that of experience), Newt's approach was pure Rovian mad science. That was the point! By highlighting the lack of experience of Palin, people are forced to compare her to Obama, which in turn allows the Republicans to guide the narrative regarding Obama's lack of experience (and knowledge in their vernacular). The circular logic is dizzying, but the effect is a net gain for McCain. Clinton wanted to do this, but could not. Only by bringing a "reformer" with no experience could McCain use weakness to highlight weakness.

While I still think this election is Obama's to lose, Palin is a game changer. Sure, she can crash and burn with one slip of the tongue or grainy video. But, Obama and Biden will not attack her. First of all, you don't attack VPs. It seems ungainly and weak (you attack presidential candidate). Secondly, the media will perceive any attack as sexist, due to the changing of the narrative by the Republican machine (see my last post and watch Jon Stewart's clip for evidence).

Obama's (and all Democrats not named Clinton) greatest weakness is his inability to shape the narrative according to his desires and make the stories the media and professional talkers (and writers) what he wants them to be. This is why Republicans win more elections. They are better at working the refs. The Republicans are Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan while the Democrats are European floppers (sure the refs give you the call every once in a while, but everyone else notices you flopped to get it). To make it work Obama needs to (taking a basketball analogy entirely too  far) follow the lead of Kobe Bryant, the Mamba, and dominate the news cycle, taking every foul as an affront and becoming selfish with the ball to score 80 points on a strong offense/ weak defense. I will leave it to him to figure out how.

Game on.**

* the desire to be elected but not to govern disturbs me greatly. We have created such a personality and identity based election cycle that it is used by politicans to gain power with no desire to put the best person in a job (no one thinks Palin is the best VP candidate- they think she is the future of the party). However, we had a part in the creation of such a system and will get what we deserve once more.

**I had 2 more reasons for the genius of the Palin nomination, but I forgot them in the fog of morning commute and dissipation of the caffeine buzz.


Alex F said...

I do find the hypocrisy on both sides of this Palin issue pretty interesting and pretty revealing. Those on the left and the right are Machiavellians at heart, willing to sacrifice certain principles in order to win power.

No question that it was a brilliant pick politically, what they call a game changer. And she, in her own way, is a great communicator and presence, much like Obama is in his own way.

kristi said...

alex, except the difference is that obama actually has depth, whereas palin seems to just be a mouthpiece, spewing whatever the right wants to hear, but doing so with great delivery. obama actually speaks without a prewritten script, is willing to answer questions, and seems to try to tell the truth more than any other politician seems to be doing. more than anything, i couldn't stand her sneering during her speech at the RNC.

but yes, if people want to keep blinders on, not use their brains, listen to lies and not try to discover the truth (which, it seems, Americans in general are known for doing--just look at the last 8 years), then i agree with you: it was a great political move on the part of mccain's camp...

Rick said...


My wife is feisty on this, huh?

I would not put her and Obama in the same league though. Maybe one day, but not yet.

Her speech was not his in 2004. he wrote it. She did not. That is huge. He was appealing to Americans to come together (there is no red state and blue state). She was tearing down an opponent, offering red meat to followers and giving half truths about her own story- not that there is something wrong with that (it is just different).

She is a great speaker. She is good with the 1 liners, but we still know nothing about her.

With Obama, we have seen him for a couple of years discuss his thoughts on many subjects, through interviews, papers, writing, speeches, etc. We know him. We can know Palin, but not yet. Sadly, not in 2 months. I wish she had run for president, so we would have had time to see who she is.

This is not a slam on her, just the process.

She may well become the right's Obama- and in some ways represents the same thing. However, I see her as the Right's Obama from 2004-6, not 2008. I want to hear her own words and then I can judge better.

Alex F said...


That was not an endorsement. I'm pretty ambivalent about Sarah Palin for a variety of reasons. I was speaking to the hypocrisy on both sides as it relates to responding to her, particularly to her as a mother with challenging family situations seeking a big-time professional gig.

Regarding the speech, I was speaking simply to her actual delivery and whatnot. And, really, when compared to most Republican candidates in the last decade or two, the bar is not that high. There's no denying she made an impact, for better or worse. Hopefully they do take the training wheels off soon. But I totally agree that Obama is a better communicator.

But I think they're all scripted pretty heavily in these campaigns, all massage facts and figures to fit their agenda, and all seem to value style over substance. That's sadly the nature of our politics, which is why I care less and less about the whole thing. I don't trust any of them.

I'm reminded in discussions and times like this, that God laughs at human rulers and institutions and nations who think they're so important and powerful. I'm grateful that He rules over all of them.