I come from a blue-collar, union family in Northern West Virginia. My father was active in the United Steelworkers of America and my mother was active in the National Education Association. My father retired many years ago and my mother now works in academic services at a local private university.
My parents both voted for Ross Perot in 1992 & 1996 and had to hold their noses when voting for Gore in 2000. They feel that the Democratic Party abandoned blue collar workers in the 1990s when they embraced free trade and left workers to fend for themselves.
This spring, like me, they were supporters of Hillary Clinton. And like me, they are now supporters of Senator Obama. If they are any indication of what rural, blue-collar Democrats are thinking about this race, Sarah Palin has backfired on McCain big-time.
My mother called me this evening and shared with me her horror at Sarah Palin’s performance in the debate on Thursday evening. All she did was repeat what she was told to say, like a “trained monkey.” She was quite insulted that Gov. Palin thought terms like “Joe six-pack” would endear her to blue-collar workers. My mother felt it was decidedly unpresidential and only made her look foolish.
If other blue-collar voters feel the same, perhaps this is the reason we are seeing such movement to Obama in the heartland. The Columbus Dispatch released a poll yesterday that put Obama up 7 points over McCain in Ohio.
My sense is that Sarah Palin has helped push voters like my parents further into the Obama fold. My mother said that she was “insulted” that McCain chose Palin. She thought that it was a “gimmick” and that it was “unpatriotic” to put the nation at risk. What if he dies? How could he choose someone so inexperienced, so unprepared? The idea of Palin being one heart beat away from the presidency frightens my mother.
What is interesting about this is that my mother and I have spoken about politics several times since Palin joined the GOP ticket. This is the first time that she has really gotten upset about it. The spark was Palin’s debate performance on Thursday. Could it be that in her attempt to look like “Joe six-pack,” she instead came across as phony and unprepared to the very voters she was trying to reach? The commentariat and the political ruling class seem to think she won by not embarrassing herself. In her pathetic, mocking attempt to cast herself as the “average Joe,” she may have done just that.
Sarah Palin was right about one thing. There is fear in the heartland about the economy. My mother said that she doesn’t understand what is happening with the economy but that she knew that the Democrats had to pad the bailout bill full of giveaways for big business to bring the Republicans on board. How could John McCain do such a thing, she said.
There is something else that my mother fears. The GOP smear machine is getting ready to pounce. Now that they are down, she said, “they are going to be dirty.” She is worried that the “dirty tricks” might again tip the election to the Republicans. She is old enough to remember the elections where the GOP slime machine diverted attention away from the issues.
We can’t allow this to happen. Not this year, not this election.
No way. No how. No McCain. No Palin.