A lot has been made about the selection of Sarah Palin theoretically attracting self-defined diehard supporters of Hillary Clinton to vote for everything Clinton stands against and against everything she stands for. How can that latter assumption be anything but ingrained sexist stereotyping, an insult to the reasoning ability and seriousness of women who voted for her? Isn’t it a manifestation of the exact complaint continually repeated against the Obama campaign? I doubt these Clinton -> McCain-Palin voters are anywhere near as great in number as the media push-polls state. But I’ll resist the temptation to go into the fraud of opinion polling again. Quite frankly, after hearing them out and thinking about what they’re saying, I don’t think anything can be said to appeal to anyone holding that position now, in September of 2008. If anyone can tell us what Obama can say to them to get their votes it might be useful.
But voter blocks don’t exist in a vacuum. Other groups are also out there and can be won over. There is also an important opportunity for the Obama campaign in Sarah Palin’s extremism and McCain’s cynical use of her. A lot of marginal supporters among Republicans can be appealed to by the Obama campaign on the basis of the real dangers a very possible Palin administration. The idea that pro-justice, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-healthcare, pro-economic sanity voters of any party affiliation would just fall in line and vote for McCain-Palin is just as strange as the speculation that Hillary Clinton’s former supporters would vote against her enthusiastically endorsed candidate this fall, in favor of her political enemies*.
As the election grows closer candidates will have to cut their losses as well as go for blocks of possible voters. They have to do that, they can’t spend time on people who aren’t going to vote for them. If you lose one group you have to look for votes from another group. Being intransigent cuts you out of consideration. Obama’s best hope for countering the cynical Palin gambit is by appealing to moderate independents and even Republicans who can be persuaded of the clear dangers of having her as McCain’s Vice President. Their possible support in November, when it counts, puts them in play. McCain might have made winning them to his side much more difficult when he tied his political fate to Palin.
Obama will be forced to put his attention where he might get votes. Groups that remove themselves from play in September will find themselves out of the focus of the campaigns. That is the way that electoral government works.
* It is well known that John McCain repeatedly told what passes as a joke in the Republican right during the 1990s, to the effect that Chelsea Clinton was so ugly because Janet Reno was her father. Many people have reported hearing him say it. McCain has certainly shown no respect to Hillary Clinton except when it’s convenient for him. His support for women's rights is, likewise, a matter of his political convenience. Palin dismissed just the complaints that those angry at Obama are giving as their reason to support the Republican ticket as “whining” and playing the female card.
By the way, I’d put Chelsea Clinton up against any combination of right wing Republican political brats any day. She’s better than all of them put together. That’s what counts.
Update: Response to an item just found in my hate mail file. No, I’m not going to going down the bottomless pit of competitive correctness here.
I’ll just say that Chelsea Clinton shows early promise of sharing many of the same qualities that made Eleanor Roosevelt among the most beautiful people of any time.