Wednesday, 3 September 2008


I don’t know about y’all, but to my mind the Sarah Palin pandemonium is getting a tad overheated. I’m not going to sit here and defend the pick, in part because I wasn’t going to vote for John McCain anyway and in part because you can read the pros and cons elsewhere. As far as comparing the vice-presidential choices go… well, let me just say that I think Joe Biden is more of an amoral beltway used-car-dealing sleazebag than John Kerry and John McCain combined, so Palin wins that contest pretty much by default. And no, that’s not much of a compliment.

I do, however, want to propose a minor thought exercise to my more “progressive” friends who think this is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel (I know you don’t know anything about guns, but bear with me). Nate at FiveThirtyEight points out that, on paper, Palin’s positions are outside the mainstream of public opinion, and—to the extent public opinion is meaningful on issues—that is true. Of course, both Obama and Biden’s positions are also outside of the mainstream—for example, both support the right to abortion under all circumstances, a minority position (something like 25% of the public support abortion rights under all circumstances), and both support prioritizing the environment and fighting global warming over jobs and the economy (a minority position).

The Democrats’ problem, as I see it, in demonizing her positions on cultural issues—and by extension McCain’s, most of which he shares—is not that they’re outside the mainstream of current opinion (they are), but that they aren’t outside the traditional beliefs held in Western society. America isn’t a “Christian nation”—that’s nonsense; the United States is fundamentally a product of enlightenment thought, albeit a country that has been much more tolerant of a diverse and heterodox set of Christian beliefs (including Palin’s) than many nominally Christian nations—but most Americans were raised to believe that traditional moral values are important even if we sometimes observe them in the breach and even if we don’t always believe the state should use its power of coercion to enforce them. Furthermore, out-of-the-mainstream views on the right have the dubious virtue politically of having been in the mainstream, if not outright consensus, in the past—in some cases, within living memory of most voters; non-mainstream views on the left, by contrast, have never held such a position. I’m not saying Palin is invulnerable on these positions, but it’s going to take a lot more than liberal echo-chamber snarkiness about how “insane” her positions are to convince most voters.

Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder has reached a minor epiphany:

[T]he more I think about it, the more I realize that if Palin answers her critics tomorrow night, these process stories might not matter much.

You don’t say. The Democrats have misunderestimated an opponent before in a year the “numbers” said they should win, and he was a hell of a lot dumber than Sarah Palin appears to be.


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Have you noticed that the Obama campaign has been pretty tight-lipped about Palin? I think they’re waiting for her speech tonight to see which way to go, but I remain impressed at their discipline on this to date. It’ll be interesting to see what line they choose to go.


Indeed, Obama’s about the only person on his side who seems to have demonstrated any sense as far as the “expectations management” side of this whole thing goes. At the moment, the expectations are so low I dare say most folks will say Palin hits it out of the park if she can string a whole sentence together.

[Permalink] 3. Rick Almeida wrote @ Wed, 3 Sep 2008, 11:56 am CDT:

“I do, however, want to propose a minor thought exercise to my more “progressive” friends who think this is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel (I know you don’t know anything about guns, but bear with me).”

I’m more “progressive” than you, and what I didn’t learn about “guns” from my liberal New England father, I learned in the Army.


There was an implied smiley in there, but it probably got lost in the insomniac translation.

Little known Chris fact: guns scare the shit out of me.

[Permalink] 5. Rick Almeida wrote @ Wed, 3 Sep 2008, 1:43 pm CDT:

Fair enough, it’s just a pet peeve of mine…I still get furious remembering how an 18 year old freshman chickenhawk from O’Fallon called me a “traitor” for opposing the Iraq war in 2002.

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