What exactly was the point of last week’s announcements for vice presidential picks? On one hand we have a shell of a candidate promoting “change” but doing everything in his power to establish himself as an establishment candidate, picking a Washington, D.C. insider with a record of corporate whoring and unquestioning support for U.S. imperial policy. Small wonder Barack Obama is either neck-and-neck with or trailing John McCain in the polls; he insists on turning off the very people he needs to put him over the top, including the Clinton supporters. On the other hand we have the Republican candidate picking a “hockey mom,” with even less political experience than his Democratic counterpart (the very thing he chides his rival for), just so he can pander to the bloc of Clinton supporters inclined to vote for McCain out of spite.
In all the hype and bluster, though, one important question remains: what does either VP pick actually add to the ticket? Joe Biden, a typical DLC insider with a hawkish foreign policy record and a habit of voting for bills that hurt working Americans, is just the sort of candidate likely to further alienate progressives – the very people Obama needs to put him over the top against McCain. Assuming progressives will get behind the Democratic nominee simply because he and his followers choose to deny any other alternative exists has always been a recipe for disaster. Just ask Al Gore and John Kerry. Obama has done everything he can to blow this election by turning off all those who put their faith and hopes in him thinking he represented a departure from the DLC. Picking Biden, though it allows for a tough yet compliant attack dog in the general election who makes up for a perceived lack of experience, really does nothing for the Democratic nominee’s chances.
Then there’s Sarah Palin. I get that she was tapped to be McCain’s veep because of her youth and sex, but those are really the only two things she has going for her as a candidate. As Michael Moore explained to Keith Olbermann the other night, McCain’s cynical pander is based on the assumption that American women are stupid – that they’ll vote for a woman because of her gender and not her politics. Her record and positions are typically extreme right-wing: opposed to abortion rights, opposed to gay marriage, supports tax cuts for the wealthy and police state thuggery, among other horrendous policies. None of those qualities, however, have won a presidential election – not for the past sixteen years, anyway (the last two were rigged, so they cannot be counted on as legitimate examples of right-wing extremism winning anything). Women who actually care about their reproductive rights and are offended by Stepford wife-type politicians may be galvanized to vote against McCain and his so-called “hockey mom.” There’s also her firing of Alaska’s public safety director, Walter Monegan, for refusing to fire her former brother-in-law. This scandal is so outrageous there that the Alaskan legislature is investigating what the Washington Post is dubbing Palin’s own “trooper-gate.”
This may be the first time since George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton that a Republican candidate blew an election by dubious virtue of being dumber than his Democratic counterpart, but don’t count McCain out yet; there are plenty of caging lists, hackable electronic voting machines, and bought state secretaries with which to steal this election, along with a Democratic rival who insists on replaying the Kerry campaign.