Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bonus Post: Feeling Giddy on a Sample of Five

You know, it's funny.

I was over in my Department offices this afternoon for a brief while, and they're very conservative over there. I mean, very conservative over there in those offices. I once asked my boss what it was that prompted him to get out of the business of owning and operating a commercial radio station and he replied, as if it were an answer, "Well, Carter was made President."

Anyway, there's a total of five people in that office cluster. And yes, before you say it, I know that five is a pretty a small sample on which to base anything at all--especially if the five people in question all live in the same town and work in the same room. Still, you'd think, if we were getting the straight read from the mainstream media on the Sarah Palin story, that the choice of Palin would rally these particular five people--two of whom are men, three of whom are women, and all of whom really, really, REALLY like to fish.

Except a funny thing happened on the way to that whole, "evangelicals love Palin" gambit that McCain's surrogates have been foisting on a credulous cable news community. These five conservatives, at least, don't seem to love her one tiny little bit.

To hear them tell it, what actually happened instead was a chronology consisting of an hour's worth of "WHO?" on Friday afternoon (and how easy it is for political junkies like The Key Grip to forget how few among us could've told you who the Governor of Alaska is, before the announcement), followed by a day or so of something more like, "No, no, really, WHO???" until Bristol's pregnancy and all the other baggage was brought to light -- followed after that, and up to the present moment, by a curious emotion that seems to have gone straight past anger regarding how Palin was being treated, and straight on to disgust with John McCain's stupidity.

If my tiny sample is any indication, then it seems that this time (unlike in previous elections), the Evangelicals aren't supporting the unknown right-wing firebrand, because this time they're too busy being shellshocked at the thought that McCain could've risked so much by picking someone that no one had been talking about. My five voices of evangelical conservatism, it seems, see Sarah Palin not so much as a rallying figure as a lightning rod.

I shouldn't wonder that the great sea of punditry out there could easily be missing this story: it's just too far outside of any of our comfort zones to be able to read it for what it really is, whatever that may be. But based on this curiously un-supportive little tete-a-tete from which I've just returned, I'd have to say that missing the story is exactly what the pundits are deep in the process of doing. The Christian-evangelical wing of the Gainesville Florida League of Republican Community College Business Department Administrators is decidedly not, as of this afternoon, more likely to support Mr. McCain than they had been before he selected Governor Palin for his running mate--and not just because no such organization exists, either.

Clearly Ms. Palin's presence on the ticket--about this much I feel relatively certain even before her speech--has done more to damage Mr. McCain's chances of becoming the next President than it has to help them. Even if she had all the evangelicals as squarely behind her as recent news cycles have led us to believe, McCain doesn't win by carrying that vote; he needs centrists and conservative Democrats who aren't about to give McCain a more favorable second-look after this, and, most of all, he needs this election to get back to being a referendum on the scary, celebrity, "other-ness" that is supposed to be Barack Obama. But those, forgive me, those are calculations that the siege-mentality wing of the GOP isn't in the habit of tabulating for themselves. As these things generally go, the more severe a conservative firebrand's reception among the nation's elite, the more likely the rank-and-file right is to be galvanized in its support.

It would seem at this hour that either Palin's scandals are more real to the right-wing, or scarier as possible election-losers in the eyes of the right-wing, or else that right-wing started out far less confident of ultimate victory--certainly than they would've had to be in 1988 to forgive Ms. Palin's muse on the Presidential undercard so much more leeway to define himself without actually knowing how to spell. To put it bluntly, my conversation this afternoon seems to suggest that, having not known who Ms. Palin is, and having already been terrified that Mr. Obama could become President, the extreme right wing emerged from the announcement more scared than ever and looking for someone to blame.

Even more interestingly, if any of this theorization is correct, then it would seem that McCain could just as well have chosen Lieberman--with the inestimable bonus that Lieberman isn't a separatist, sanctimonious hypocrite, wife of a drunk-driver, documented power-abuser, and mother of an unwed pregnant teen.

All of which adds up to precious little, of course, other than the very interesting prospect of a Republican Presidential candidate, in the creamy center of his own convention week, desperately spinning his surrogates to the far corners of the cable airwaves, white-knuckled and purse-lipped and gritting their way through what should have been the double bounce of a perfectly timed VP announcement and four nights of darling media coverage, hunkered squarely down in full damage control mode.

And judging by the reception my evangelical colleagues are affording to Mr. McCain's judgment, in the only big matter he's thusfar had to decide, those surrogates would seem now more than ever to find themselves facing a large and growing inventory of damage, to control.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida


isuyankee said...

Wouldn't get giddy just yet. I still think you (and the liberal blogger community in general) are underestimating McCain and Palin. They will give good speeches in St. Paul and the polls will tighten once again. I work with what I would call "moderate" Republicans (they like low taxes a lot). They all like McCain---they see him as principled, fiscally prudent, and not as socially conservative as Bush. They initially LOVED Palin---a Washington outsider and reformer. Now, I would say they are confused about what to think of her. I think she will be very good at the convention though. The right-wing is in full-scale attack mode against the liberal media who have "smeared" poor Sarah. I say to the Daily Kos and Huffingtons of the world---back off---you are hurting Obama not helping him. Here is the dreaded WSJ on how McCain can win---they aren't totally wrong....http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122031196249888759.html?mod=fpa_mostpop

isuyankee said...

Another article on why you ought to be careful about under-estimating Palin. She is a good politician. http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2008/09/02/the-case-against-the-case-against-palin.aspx