Some rambling thoughts after the first Presidential debate, and before Thursday, and much of it inspired by DC Democrat’s excellent diary.
Ever since McCain made his first big decision of his campaign, selecting Governor Palin as his VP, I’ve begun to mentally construct what happened in the Republican party during those long months of the Democratic Primary battles
While some of the conflict between Obama and Hillary appalled many of us, it probably enthralled the rest of the country, and McCain and his strategists looked at this long and hard.
At first they tried to exploit it, fanning internal problems with Rush Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos, sending legions of obvious trolls to invade our blogs. But at heart they must have been sickened. Dems were capturing all the public attention: they had two phenomenal change candidates, one a woman, one a black American, who enthused different constituencies to register, turn out and participate in a vote. If these active elements could unify They must have wracked their brains to work out: what can we do?
And so for three months, the rumor has it that McCain wanted Lieberman but the conservative base wouldn’t wear it. It was only in REACTION to Obama’s VP pick that McCain decided to play a gender card and pick Palin
Let’s just stop and rewind this a moment. McCain went from a centrist independent VP to the far inexperienced right. Can you imagine two ideologically different candidates? Two candidates with such a gap in experience? What does this lurching swing tell you? Of course, many things about McCain’s recklessness and pursuit of power without principle. But Lieberman or Palin? What does it tell you about the state of the GOP?
It tells me this party is at war with itself.
Just as the rejection of the bailout plan has shown house Republicans are now speaking with many divergent voices, Palin’s pick is a symptom of the venomous but silent civil war which is engulfing the Republican Party.
While democrats thrashed around from February to June, yelling loudly, throwing dishes at each other, showing their dirty laundry to the world, they were still at least talking. Looking back, despite the razzmatazz and photo opportunities of the Republican convention, aren’t the fissures between supporters of McCain, Romney or Huckabee, just too wide to bridge.
Which brings me back again, as all good threads must, to Palin. By combining the qualities of the Huckabee base with their first woman VP, no doubt McCain wanted to activate the base, take over some core dem support for women, and triangulate his way out of his fissiparous party. Governor Palin was the bright shiny new thing which could act like a bandaid for the party wounds. But the strategy unravelled quickly because of the pure ineptitude of lifestyle identity politics. Coates in The Atlantic skewers both the cynicism and sexism of this move
In election season, there is a price for being turned into a symbol. When actual journalists, with a rep to protect, show up, they are going to do their job. Which brings me to the sexism of John McCain. He knew full well what Sarah Palin was going to face if he nominated her. He knew that reporters would go through her past, that they’d quizz her on the present, that she would need to be ready, and he shunted concern aside, and tossed her to the wolves. Think on that for a moment. For one last run at the White House, he risked a future star of the party he claims to call home. How do you do that?
I don’t meant to rob Palin of agency, certainly she is also a victim of her own calculations and ambitions. But where I am from the elders protect you, and pull you back when you’ve gone too far, when your head has gotten too big.
Which leads us to the bigger as yet unknown story of the silent war within the GOP, which led to this reckless desperate hurried decision.
Palin is bearing the brunt of this. And like Coates I pity Palin too insofar as she’s actually a product of McCain’s desperation, itself a symptom of the Republican’s ideological implosion