McCain puts his chips on the female vote

Okay, so let’s turn our attention to the States, and the endless presidential election, now in its convention period. And isn’t it amazing how everyone is the candidate of change and reform, even the ruling party candidate?

So, this week we’ve had the Democrats in Denver, and as expected their candidate, Irish-American senator Barack O’Bama, put on a show worthy of Freddie Mercury in his pomp. And in a football stadium, forbye.

But it’s been interesting to see the two candidates’ picks for the vice-presidential slot. As Michael Moore was saying a little while ago, so useless are the Dems at elections (Al Gore even managing to win the election and still not become president) that O’Bama could quite plausibly have picked a retired general, or a Republican. Which would not have won over any actual Republicans, but would have pissed off his base no end. Instead, he’s picked Irish-American senator Joe Finnegan Biden, a conservative Democrat who has been in the Senate seemingly forever, a reliable ally of any corporation that wants legislation sponsored, and a former supporter of the Iraq invasion. Way to go, Barack! Although I suppose the demands of a balanced ticket required that the VP slot go to an old white dude. This, by the way, is yet another illustration of just how radical O’Bama is prepared to be, as if the presence of Zbigniew Brzezinski as his foreign policy guru wasn’t enough of a clue.

And today all the focus has been on the Republicans, who already have an old white dude, Irish-American senator and Civil War veteran John McCain, as their presidential candidate. Left to their own devices, the Republicans could easily have picked a second old white dude. I personally was hoping for McCain’s closest political friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman, just so the two could do a re-enactment of Grumpy Old Men. But the speculation had centered around Mormon tycoon Mitt Romney, and several conservative men in suits from the rectangular states.

And then McCain, as is his wont, throws us a curve ball. Republican pollsters have evidently impressed on their doddering candidate that he needed youth on the ticket. (This would make their attacks on O’Bama’s inexperience more difficult to sustain, but then McCain’s age and health have considerable negative potential.) And, such has been the bitterness amongst the Dems that the McCain camp evidently reckon they could picked up some bitter Clintonites. But hmm, the Republican Party is not exactly heaving with youngish, presentable women. And so they have turned to an almost complete unknown, the rookie governor of Alaska, moose-shooting milf Sarah Palin.

This is almost stunningly transparent in its cynicism. While Clinton herself is far from being a fire-breathing liberal, her female supporters generally are quite liberal, and very pro-choice. Palin is not only anti-choice, but crazily anti-choice. And, as far as I can see, on just about every count she’s more conservative than McCain by far. As well as being just as strident a supporter of Big Oil as McCain, which may not play well in an election where energy will be central. Will Hillary supporters be swayed by Palin, simply because of her gender? I’m sure a few might, but if that’s the case in any numbers it will surely make the point that American politics today are more about the optics and the demographics than actual policy.

You never know, this may turn out to be an inspired choice on McCain’s part. But I have the sneaking feeling that his curve ball may curve back on him, like one of those Australian wooden frisbees.

Rud eile: just for a moment, may I express my irritation at the news media. Of course, we know the media are neophiliacs, which is probably a big reason for why O’Bama has got such an easy ride, once he had established his newness as a narrative. In the British media, by far the worst offender has been the Grauniad, which has apparently decided that its readers really need six articles on O’Bama every day. But now something even newer and shinier has spun into view. And today on the BBC news it’s been all, “Sarah Palin! Whoo! She’s young! She’s female! She’s new! She’s eye candy!” Which is fine for a little while, but after several hours you start to wonder where the substance is. And isn’t Justin Webb supposed to be providing analysis?

More good comment, as always, over at Cedar Lounge.

Update 30.08.08: May I recommend to readers this take on affairs from way up in Alaska itself.


  1. WorldbyStorm said,

    August 29, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    “I’m sure a few might, but if that’s the case in any numbers it will surely make the point that American politics today are more about the optics and the demographics than actual policy.”

    That seems to be the case.

    “You never know, this may turn out to be an inspired choice on McCain’s part. But I have the sneaking feeling that his curve ball may curve back on him, like one of those Australian wooden frisbees.”

    I’m sort of reminded of Bob Dole, but he’s not quite there yet. Still, give him time. Putting politics aside, as best one can – which is of course impossible, I can’t quite get a read on his character.

  2. weserei said,

    August 29, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Strong analysis as usual. The x-factor seems to be the scandal known as Wootengate. (In short: Palin’s sister has nasty divorce from man named Wooten, Wooten is a state cop, Palin wink-wink-nudge-nudges an aide into telling the Commissioner of Public Safety to fire him, CPS refuses, CPS gets fired for supposedly unrelated reasons). On the one hand, Wooten doesn’t come off as the kind of guy who that state should be issuing a weapon to. On the other hand, clear abuse of power. It probably won’t be devastating to McCain-Palin, but it doesn’t make this any less ill-conceived a pick.

    Re Obama-Biden, the overall goal of the Democratic National Convention was to reinvent Obama as an economic populist, and more of one than most Democrats–but not some kind of, like, socialist or something. Biden’s combination of a working-class background and a corporate-friendly voting record fit this to a T.

  3. Mike said,

    August 29, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    O’Barmy has it.

    Mind you he is as safe for the boss class as McCain. Fuck em all.

  4. harpymarx said,

    August 29, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I think McCain is shoring up the Christian fundamentalist vote by going for this woman as she is staunch anti-abortionist. And McCain is making sure they come marching out for him.

  5. Wednesday said,

    August 30, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Biden wouldn’t be considered a conservative Democrat, not by American standards, his pro-corporate and generally hawkish views notwithstanding.

    If the Dems highlight how atrociously right-wing Palin is, especially on reproductive issues, there should be minimal leakage of the Hilary vote (the disgruntled women at least). I’m not sure they’re smart enough, though.

  6. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 30, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Maybe it’s his vintage that makes me think of him as conservative – he has something of a populist streak, yes?

    I agree with you about leakage of disgruntled women, and I’d be very worried if it was more than minimal.

  7. August 30, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I think this is a choice calculated to appeal to a sort of hardened narcissistic disorder in America. Palin is a fantasy candidate, a sort of infinite crisis wonder woman with no real claim to office. It is also a cynical choice, as you pointed out. The unfortunate thing is, the American media being so bad and so many Clinton voters looking for an excuse, that it might fly. I though Palin was a mix of Lurleen Wallace and Dan Quayle in a scarf–and now, all I hear is sub-Peronist silliness. God help us, if I’m allowed to mention him on your blog, which is great by the way.

  8. JM said,

    August 30, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Crikey. I thought McCain had picked that dim daytime TV pundit who’s occasionally spoofed on Dead Ringers. Can’t recall her name.

    PS. Your old mate Marko gets mentioned in a very fractious CiF thread following an article by Slavenka Drakulić:

    PPS. “leakage” tsk, tsk…

  9. Dr Paul said,

    August 30, 2008 at 10:53 am

    SS wrote: ‘This, by the way, is yet another illustration of just how radical O’Bama is prepared to be, as if the presence of Zbigniew Brzezinski as his foreign policy guru wasn’t enough of a clue.’

    Exactly; Brzezinski was one of the first foreign affairs whizzes to call for the West to guide Ukraine into the Western orbit, in order to isolate Russia and, presumably, help surround it with pro-Western states. I can’t be sure, but I think he was calling for Ukraine to be in Nato practically as the Soviet Union was collapsing in 1991.

    Seeing that Nato membership for Ukraine would cause Putin and his dancing bear to do a Georgia on a big scale — much of Eastern Ukraine is ethnically Russian, and many Ukrainians there identify more with Russia than with the anti-Russian Western Ukrainians, and then there is Crimea — the possibilities for Russia to cause a lot of mischief there are manifold. Yushchenko’s desire for Ukraine to join Nato is very provocative.

    O’Bama’s having Brzezinski on board also helps to explain Boy Miliband’s bellicosity over Georgia and Ukraine. He wants to keep in with Washington, and he knows that whatever way the election goes, the USA will be strongly anti-Russian. Anyone who thinks that New Labour has changed its foreign policy from Blair’s uncritical following of Washington in all but the pettiest detail is very wrong.

  10. JM said,

    August 30, 2008 at 11:04 am

    PPS. Check out the vitriol dished out to Marko’s compatriot Slavenka Drakulić on a current CiF thread:

    Dear me, the knives are out…

  11. mac said,

    August 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    ” … crazily anti-choice” is right.

    A strident anti-abortion position even in cases of rape and incest is usually a clue that there are a few screws loose. The pic above would tend to underscore that impression – something very odd going on there.

    Someone on another thread mentioned her MILFesque appeal. McSame may be trying to rope in American males with an Alaskan-mayor-with-spectacles fetish.

    She’s also a creationist nut who wants it taught in schools and believes that humans are innocent of all charges related to climate change.

    There are some sins that being somewhat hot simply won’t cover.

  12. almata said,

    August 30, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I wouldn’t say Biden has a populist streak, he’s just more prone to bluster than most other Senators. I wouldn’t describe him as “on the right” of the Dems any more than Hillary. Though he has had, by virtue of his nearly four decades in the Senate, many opportunities for the creation of “bi-partisan” bills in that body and has a close working relationship with the Republicans (including McCain). This has meant that he has been a bit of a point man on what the Dems and Republican can agree to get done to screw workers in the US. He is certainly to the right of the base of the party on foreign policy (the whole top of the party is to the right of the base on nearly everything). A Cold War liberal he has been a hawk for years and made a good deal of his bones urging the bombing of Serbs throughout the 1990’s. I am sure that he and Obama will add the “humanitarian” tag to their adventures in a way Bush hasn’t.

  13. Seán said,

    August 30, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I just glad Elaine from Seinfeld has finally settled down and made a success of herself at last.

  14. Wednesday said,

    August 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I was thinking more along the lines of Iris Robinson myself.

  15. Craig said,

    August 30, 2008 at 9:18 pm


    Crazily “anti-choice”? Why? Because she didn’t abort the child with Down’s Syndrome?

  16. August 30, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I suspect that she might win around some women, if anything she’ll make the package significantly less appealing to feminists. This post-feminist hates the sound of her and suspects that McCain’s blunted the impact of his “inexperienced” argument against Obama. If he’s willing to make his second-in-command a woman who has never been involved in national politics, has little to no foreign policy knowledge and who he has only met upon a singular occasion then how exactly can he argue for Obama’s inadequacy?

    Well, he’ll have to. But the answer is “Poorly”.

  17. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 31, 2008 at 4:35 am

    No, crazily anti-choice because she opposes abortion even in rape and incest cases, which is usually a bad sign.

  18. Binh said,

    August 31, 2008 at 6:13 am

    MILF? I think not. Then again, I’m not a 72 year old Republican running for president…

    This pick allows him to check a number of boxes: youth, right-wing-as-hell on social issues, allows him to court the Hillaryites to a degree, she’s not connected with Bush or Washington generally. It takes away from his Obama’s inexperience argument, but McCain probably figured that Bam picking Biden did that anyway.

    On a semi-related topic, I wanted to ask comrades here if the reference to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in the following Socialist Worker (U.S.) article was sexist:

    I wrote a letter which I posted in my blog, and the response from the few ISO members I sent it to was that I’m off my rocker on this.

  19. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 31, 2008 at 6:40 am

    I think “pointless celebrities” would have been better than “mindless”.

    Martin, sharp work on Justin Webb. The man really is an absolute shower.

  20. David Ellis said,

    August 31, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Seems that picking Palin is a tacit acceptance by the Republicans that they will lose the next election. If McCain dies she’s president. That’s going to cost a lot of votes. The long term implications are more worrying perhaps. McCain is giving Christian Zionism a chance to put its views out there and gain some valuable air time and experience of electioneering for the future when the Democrats inevitably hand the power back.

  21. September 1, 2008 at 12:03 am

    MILF? I think not. Then again, I’m not a 72 year old Republican running for president…

    Neither am I but I would.

  22. ejh said,

    September 1, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Jesus, Justin Webb.

    Not very long ago Webb did a series (I read it on the BBC site: I don’t know if it was taken from a radio programme) about “anti-Americanism” in Latin America. At no point did he mention that within recent memory, nearly all the countries he mentioned were run by military dictatorships with the enthusiastic support of Washington, a fact which must have been known to every single person he spoke to, and one influential in shaping their views.

  23. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 1, 2008 at 7:53 am

    I have a vague memory of him holding forth on anti-Americanism and citing Aaro as his source. Which gives pause…

  24. Andy newman said,

    September 1, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Trying to court the Christian findie vote through Palin may backfire, as while they well approve of her not aborting her Down’s child.

    BUt equally, they are likely to question whether the mother of a child less than one year old with a disability should be taking a time consuming national political role.

  25. weserei said,

    September 1, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    @25: I’m not sure the Religious Right is really likely to go after working mothers. So many of its own female leaders are, including presumably most of Palin’s friends at Feminists for Life. Opposition to woemn in the workplace is a hard sell for a right-wing movement in the US–our current economic conditions don’t allow most families to make it (in the house-and-two-cars sense) on a single income.

  26. ejh said,

    October 7, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Webb and his mates.

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