I’ve been thinking more and more about just how the presence of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate might affect those people who sway the most staunch of Hillary Clinton’s supporters. It’s something that a lot of others have discussed, and I have to agree that, logically, it makes no sense.
When you look at the positions of Clinton and Obama, they really aren’t that different. There were very few issues where they differed, and mostly those were very, very fine distinctions. If one looks at things logically, if you backed Hillary over almost any issue, you’d be very well served supporting Obama.
But that’s the flaw. The Hillary/Obama fight was almost never about logic. It was about emotion.
Most of the Hillary supporters I listened to during the very bruising primary season were angry. They were wrapped up in the idea of Hillary being president, of the symbolism of that, more than they were about any issues. They saw the nomination as Hillary’s, and were angry that Obama not only had the effrontery to challenge her, but to beat her.
And make no mistake about it. Obama beat her, and beat her soundly. Hillary’s supporters boast about how she won 18 million votes, how she got about the same number of votes as Obama did, but that doesn’t matter. Obama’s campaign looked at the rules of the primaries, and never took their eyes off winning by those rules. In a way, it’s a presidential race in microcosm — the popular vote is irrelevant, it’s the electoral vote that matters. Instead, here, it was delegates — and Obama won the perquisite number to claim victory.
So all along, it was never about issues to most of the Hillary supporters. It was about respect — or, at least, what they considered “respect.”
And at pretty much every opportunity, Obama seemed to give them (and, by extension, women in general) the back of his hand.
One incident that galvanized a lot of them was Obama brushing off a reporter with a “hold on one second, sweetie.” Being dismissive to the press is no big deal. Hell, it often scores politicians points with the public. But to use a condescending, sexist diminutive term like “sweetie” was, to them, a glimpse into Obama’s character — he didn’t really take women seriously.
When it came time for Obama to name his running mate, they thought that Hillary deserved the slot — or, at least, serious consideration. They didn’t think it through — Hillary was one of Obama’s harshest critics, his most persistent rival, and possesses in spades the last things any president would want in a veep: ambition and a serious hunger for the top job. It would have been a serious disaster for Obama to bring Hillary back into the White House, especially with the baggage (especially that steamer trunk of a husband of hers) she brings.
But that didn’t matter to the Hillary backers. Not in the slightest.
They might — might — have been mollified by getting the #2 seat. (I tend to doubt it, though.) That simply was never going to happen. So they had to find the point where they said “we’ve had enough.” It turned out to be when it was revealed that Hillary didn’t make the final cut, wasn’t even fully vetted by the Obama camp.
That would have been nothing but a huge waste of time and energy and money. Hillary’s been as thoroughly vetted as anyone already (although that didn’t catch the frequent presence of Norman Hsu, Democratic fund-raiser and wanted fugitive — I STILL wanna know how he got past the Secret Service repeatedly!). There was no way Obama would choose her. Had he put her on the “short list” and vetted her, that would have simply led to cries of “why did you put her though that when you KNEW you wouldn’t pick her! Why did you humiliate her so?”
So we have this sizable chunk of Hillary supporters who find that they agree with Obama on most issues, but are furious with him. And they are more involved in their emotions than they are with any issues. What will they do?
Well, they could just sit out the election. That fits the passive-aggressive mold quite nicely.
Some of them may do so — and quite loudly. But that won’t be enough for some of them.
That’s when Sarah Palin comes in. She’s ONE OF THEM.
She’s a woman, she’s a working mother, she has gone into the “man’s world” of hardscrabble politics, and she’s prevailed. They might not liker her stance on issues, but that’s OK — they know her type. She’s not one of those sanctimonious “better than thou” religious types. She’s the hockey/soccer mom, running in seven directions at once, juggling her commitments all over the place, and somehow managing to not fly completely apart.
And, from the outset, she says nice things about Geraldine Ferraro AND Hillary Clinton.
(THAT, folks, was a stroke of genius. On the surface, it was almost obligatory, to curtsy to the first woman to run for vice-president and the first woman to ALMOST win a presidential nomination; just below it, it was a quick shout-out to two women who have been very vocal critics of Barack Obama. This is a lady who knows how to play hardball without wrinkling her dress.)
At that point, a vote for Palin (well, a vote for McCain and Palin) becomes less about issues, less about the direction they want the country to go, and more of a colossal “FU” to Barack Obama, the MAN who stole Hillary’s nomination and is KEEPING WOMEN DOWN.
No, it’s not logical. It’s emotional. It’s short-sighted. It’s foolish.
But it just might be the one thing that could tip the election in November.
For McCain and Palin to not recognize it, to not use it to their advantage, would be beyond foolish.