Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reflections on the Choice of Sarah Palin

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

There has been a lot of discussion here over the last day on the choice of Sarah Palin, running the entire gamut from the idea of "Thank you for the early Christmas present, now we can rest on our laurels, the election is won" to "This is a disaster, we've just lost the election".

Neither is true, and neither would matter if it were.

Three areas:

1. What we don't know
2. What to look for
3. Why it doesn't matter

1. What we don't know

Yesterday was cheesecake. OH BOY A BEAUTY QUEEN! Aside from the basic true-conservative, lifetime NRA, moose chomping, anti-abortion EVEN IN THE CASES OF RAPE AND INCEST, small town mayor, under investigation, mother of five, WE KNOW NOTHING.

More importantly, aside from "us" - the low-information voters know less. CNN, which should know, forgets to mention the bi-partisan investigation first reported on here at DCW a month ago. In fact they put up the investigation as "Breaking News" in the 10 pm hour last night.

It's not just that she hasn't been completely publicly vetted, I'm not convinced she's been privately vetted by the McCain campaign, as McCain only met her once before the announcement yesterday, and he called her about a week ago to let her know she was under consideration.

We not only don't know her biography, we also do not know all her positions, nor her personality. And there are rumours, which I can't yet get actual confirmation on from someone who has seen it, that she has a temper to rival McCain's. (But, yes, when I'm sure, I'll have sources.)

So before we run to either end of the gift-disaster spectrum, let's wait and see.

2. What to look for:

This week will be Sarah Palin's first national exposure. She is going to make a speech, introducing herself to the world. What will she say, and how will she say it? Likely, someone will write that speech for her, and while I'm big on writing one own's speeches and only (if at all) using speech writers to polish, as I mentioned here, she likely doesn't have time to get the writing accomplished.

Obama's speech "worked" because his speech was HIM: his words, his thoughts, his plans, his promises, his soul. One can never have that if one is a puppet.

And "puppet" is what needs to be determined this week at the Republican Convention. Forgetting about Dick Cheney, and to a certain extent, Al Gore, Vice Presidents have no assigned duties except to be President of the Senate, UNLESS THOSE DUTIES ARE ASSIGNED BY THE PRESIDENT. Everyone talks about the age differential, and can she lead if he dies, but people should also think about what she would do for any period that he was alive.

If is possible that McCain picked a woman to use exclusively as window dressing? By law, he can't pay her less, but he can restrict her duties to Rose Garden photos, a world tour with no policy portfolio, etc. She could concievably be the political equivalent of a trophy wife.

Therefore, it will be interesting to see if her speech is a parrot of the McCain positions, a parrot of the GOP platform (yes, there is divergence between the two), a biographical speech, or a speech laying out what she would do in the position of Vice President.

If her known positions are her passions, then maybe she'll say that, if elected, she will work for the repeal of Roe v Wade and the outlawing of all abortions in all cases. Or maybe she'll say that she'll concentrate on energy policy, albeit the Palin Position of "energy is oil, oil is energy, and there is nothing else."

Also look for her tone and demeanor. Next, and I HATE HATE HATE saying this: look at her clothes. While I tend to be oblivious to such things, most people, especially low-information voters, are not.

Finally, look at how she is treated by the Republicans. McCain had women choices: Kay Bailey Hutchison, Liddy Dole, Olympia Snowe, Christy Todd Whitman, Susan Collins, Jodi Rell, Linda Lingell, Jane Hull -- all Republican Senators or Governors with experience and portfolio. You might not know all of them, but they have stature. Will Sarah Palin be treated as a member of the club, or as a neophyte?

3. Why it doesn't matter

Yesterday, there was an email that went around the group of activists working locally on the campaign. The positions echoed what was said here in the comment threads from ecstasy to despair. The one that made me contribute was from a local leader who expressed abject terror about running against a woman. And I stand by what I sent out to them:


Here's the thing -- there is a big difference between what we feel, and what we do.

Sarah Palin might be a helpful pick for McCain, might not be. When the anti-choice people get wind of the fact that she had a Down's Syndrome baby, by choice, after knowing, they'll cheer. But how will they feel when they find out that since Veep is a 24/7/365 job, she'll be turning that baby (who will turn 1 next April) over to nannies and babysittters?

Whatever -- it DOESN'T MATTER TO US. We have a plan. A plan that involves canvassing, phone banking, voter registration, visibility, and winning one voter at a time. So long as we follow our plan, we will prevail. Perhaps our rhetoric must change, perhaps we'll need to reach out a little harder to a few more people -- but we do what we do, and we do it as well as we can, and we do it with a smile on our faces, NOT with fear in our hearts.

My grandfather always said -- to succeed at anything, all you need to do is eat a little less, sleep a little less, work a little more.

So we do what we do. Fear is paralyzing -- working from a place of joy and hope and certainty is empowering.
So skip the over-confidence, skip the despair, and just get to work. Elections are won one voter at a time. Go get yours today.