I am watching Sarah Palin's new stump speech (she is in Clearwater, Florida) and I go back to my comparison of her to Ronald Reagan. She is delivering the same hate filled Republican attacks on the patriotism of Democrats; on supposedly "tax loving" Democrats who argue for higher taxes for "ordinary Americans" (using Joe Biden's formulation of asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes as an act of patriotism); arguing that government is the evil in society; Democrats as "the Other," a classic Politics of Paranoia tactic, and so on. The difference is she spends the first 10 minutes of the speech doing her "hockey mom" Jane Six pack schtick. But to me it was pure Ronald Reagan.
I thought it was politically effective while I found it personally repugnant. For those who do not know, I have argued that Ronald Reagan was one of the most repugnant figures in political history. And here is my bottom line - Palin is ten times the politician John McCain is. If we can keep the voters' focus on McCain and not Palin, it is to the benefit of the Democrats. Karl Rove makes a good point in response to Jon Meacham:
[Palin]'s a rising star who accentuates John McCain's maverick strengths and a "hockey mom" who has developed a powerful tie to ordinary voters.
That link isn't itself an argument for Palin. But being able to connect with, and inspire, the public is an asset not a liability. As for Jon's argument against "everyday Americans" as political leaders, many great presidents have been more average than elitist. Ronald Reagan, from Eureka College, was a far better leader than Woodrow Wilson, a former president of Princeton. Wilson would have given you 100 Supreme Court opinions he disagreed with, whether you wanted to listen or not.
Here's the thing, Palin's Paranoia with a hockey mom smile is what McCain needs to do - what the Republicans must do - attack Obama's character. Rove writes:
McCain-Palin must deepen those doubts by pounding away on questions about Obama's character, judgment and values. Drawing on Obama's own record and statements, they need to paint him as a big spender, class warrior and cultural elitist; they need to say he's never worked across party lines or gotten his hands dirty solving big issues.
Palin has the personna to do it - she is Jane SixPack. And frankly, Dems and liberals have helped crystallize that image, for better or worse. Rove writes:
McCain must launch these themes in the two remaining debates. Knockouts are welcome but unlikely and unnecessary. Introducing a theme and sticking to it day after day worked this past July, when McCain successfully depicted Obama as a celebrity taken with his own press notices. The GOP nominee did it right in the first debate when his assaults were formal and indirect ("Senator Obama has the most liberal voting record ") while Obama was personal and direct ("John, 10 days ago you said ").
The problem is John McCain is an incompetent politician (he is also a reckless, feckless blithering idiot generally.) He is incapable of doing it. Palin can. She has political talent. McCain does not.
In July, it was not John McCain who made the attacks that worked on Obama - it was the McCain campaign ads. McCain himself is a political incompetent not capable of making the attacks with a smile.
And of course, the Obama campaign will not be sitting still through all of this. It has been driving the message even today - "John McCain can ignore the economy, the American People can not." Obama will hammer the economy till the cows come home now.
So long as the Obama camp does not let itself get distracted by Palin, it will win this election in a walk. If it gets distracted, the election could get closer.
By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only