Palin Picked, IVAW Marches in Denver
Palin is known as a reformer, and in her first public appearance since the nomination today, in Dayton, Ohio, she took pride in rejecting the notorious bridge to nowhere, a massive federal pork barrel project. She said she'd fought the old guard, a group of Alaskan men like Ted Stevens who've been investigated for improprieties and dubious relationships with businesses receiving federal contracts. [Senator Stevens is currently under indictment for failing to disclose home remodeling done by a businessman acquaintance.]
Palin's home state is nearly the farthest away geographically from neo-liberal/neo-conservative Washington, D.C., and challenging the GOP Establishment there has boosted Palin's image as a reformer.
GOP handlers have gotten ahead of any potential criticism of Palin by distancing themselves from Stevens and his generation. The simple fact that Palin is young, attractive, and female achieves this goal. Healthy and vigorous, Palin gives the Republican ticket a more robust feel.
Identity politics, a political methodology central to Republican success in the past two Presidential elections, supports the notion that voters will vote for Palin simply because they identify more with her than the opposing candidate(s). According to this theory, Sarah Palin's status as a mother of five will help voting mothers identify more with the GOP ticket than had a male candidate been picked.
A Beltway insider, Biden may seem more like a Establishment candidate compared to Palin, former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a small suburb of Anchorage. Rather than compete with Biden's qualifications, the Republicans have sought to challenge his popular appeal. Who can identify with Biden? Catholics and older Americans perhaps. Rather than compete head-to-head for the same demographic, the GOP is trying to grab independents and cash in anti-incumbent and anti-Washington sentiment. By virtue of the Palin choice, McCain must not have been thought to be independent enough to appeal to these kinds of voters.
I've said that elitism would be the wedge issue of the 2008 election, just as gay marriage was the hot button in 2004. If the GOP can paint Biden/Obama as part of the Establishment, they might be able to better position Palin/McCain as mavericks and outsiders, despite McCain's long Washington tenure and close connections to the White House. By grabbing someone totally inexperienced with federal politics, they can perhaps counterbalance Obama's inexperience, if indeed experience is a liability with voters who have a record-low opinion of Congress. If inexperience is that huge of an asset, Palin could be bring a lot to the ticket. Compared to Palin, Obama seems almost a veteran--at the very least, criticism of his lack of experience will be greatly muted by Palin's selection.
McCain would be the oldest President in history, which puts an inexperienced Palin one heartbeat away from the Presidency. How well could she deal with a foreign policy crisis with--let's say--Russia? With the neo-cons stirring the Georgia pot, putting missile shield bases near Russia, and extending NATO to Russia's borders, the US might face serious challenges dealing with a resurgent Russia, especially with McCain embracing a return to Cold War-style posturing which might extend past the election--contrary to what Putin says--and into McCain's first term as President.
The GOP has done a good job timing the announcement to coincide with the peak impact of Obama's speech, which did do a good job attacking McCain and addressing the problems average people face.
As a woman, Palin might appeal to women voters who might feel left behind by the rejection of Hillary Clinton. Commenting on MSNBC, Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post said that Obama and Biden would need to handle her gently, lest they turn off women voters who feel jilted by Hillary Clinton's defeat in the Democratic primaries. In her Dayton remarks, Palin did refer to Hillary Clinton's campaign, saying how her candidacy had left 18 million voters behind, and failed to break the "hardest, highest...glass ceiling" for the top job in the land, the Presidency.
Will women vote for Palin just because she's a woman? Not necessarily. She will undoubtedly invigorate women conservatives who would have voted McCain anyway. Now if Palin's political background had been built on traditional "womens' issues" like violence against women, she might attract women voters simply for being a woman, but Biden could attract women for his legislative achievements in that area. Women aren't likely to vote based on the gender of the candidate alone, particularly if the male candidate can claim a record of addressing and attempting to resolve the typical concerns held by most women (which I wouldn't begin to try to define.)
Socially conservative women will identify with Palin but not necessarily because she's a woman.
Just how likely are pro-choice women to be swayed by the Palin choice? Palin is anti-choice, and very socially conservative, who might not endear herself to the majority of women, who favor choice.
Palin's status of motherhood--greatly under-represented in male-dominated political circles--might attract fellow mothers, who might be more likely to identify with her than Obama or Biden, as the Democratic candidates share positions popular with mother like better health care, family leave, equal pay, etc..
Palin isn't the only mother in the race. Mother figures in Democratic camp include Michelle O., who starts and ends her every day think about her children. Also Biden's Irish Catholic mother has some strong opinions on the topic, and the pretty Biden daughters, babies in their arms, make for a strong image of exemplary motherhood.
Palin's choice threatens the status quo and her place on the ticket confronts Obama's position as the sole candidate "for change." It remains to be seen what effect the novelty of a woman's selection for the Vice President candidacy will retain from now to the election.
By selecting Palin, the Republicans challenge perceptions which paint their Party as traditionally dominated by men. The Palin pick makes the Democrat selection of a black candidate look a little less avante garde, or progressive. By choosing a woman, the GOP woos voters who don't typically vote Republican. At the same time though, Palin's positions on the issues will ultimately determine how she is received among women voters, rather than her gender or motherhood status.
Despite the success of identity politics in the past two elections, the fear button is not as likely to make an impact with NASCAR dads and "security" (soccer) Moms. If anything, Middle Class "pocketbook" fears about the economy and health care may help the Democrats more than any talk about terror could help the GOP. In this election, positions might really matter more than how the public identifies with the candidate.
As we've seen in recent Rovian-inspired elections, the facts matter far less than perceptions; reality far less than how it is spun. With all the mainstream media outlets over-stimulated by endless punditry and banter, deception is an important model to draw on from past elections. Lying works, at least when it goes unconfronted by the MSM. Palin can be represented as whatever the spin machine wants her to be. As an outsider with no Washington experience (and therefore assumed to be less corrupt), she's a lump of clay, ready to be carved into whatever shape the political insiders choose.
Early in his candidacy, Obama was seen as a maverick and upstart, who might really change Washington. People are eager for change, and Obama masterfully positioned himself as the candidate for change, a label the Palin pick shows that the GOP is eager to steal. By selecting Palin, the GOP has stolen some of Obama's claim to be the candidate of change, as he doesn't offer a woman on his ticket, nor is he the only Washington outsider.
How much of Obama's image is built on the fact he's black, rather than on the issues that he represents? Much has been said about Obama's race. Earlier this year, Geraldine Ferraro--the other woman pick--attributed much of Obama's success to the fact he was black, which stirred great controversy. At the time, this raised criticisms of her 1984 selection as the Vice Presidential candidate--would Ferraro have ever made it to the ticker if she were a man, with equal qualifications?
Identity politics has its limits. We can't attribute a candidate's success or popularity strictly to their race, or gender. If our society has become post-racial, Obama being black is a non-issue--the election will tell just what kind of a hold racism has on the electorate. With blacks largely voting Democratic, their identifying with Obama because he's black won't bring in many undecided votes. If blacks made up a larger percentage of the population, simply being black would not be enough of a qualification for success because we'd see far more black candidates, and being black wouldn't matter much if at all.
Advancement of political opportunities for women has made female candidates less of a novelty in State and local elections, but obviously not with federal offices, where old white men predominate. Stereotypes persist. Women candidates for higher office are often criticized based on the widely held stereotype that they are less able to manage the stress of a true crisis; this is the same rationale used to ban them from combat roles in the military. This perception is more likely to be levelled at younger women; Palin is hardly immune, but perhaps the men (and some women) who hold these views have been taken for granted as McCain backers, much as the antiwar vote has been presumed to go to Obama.
No such stereotype exists for the leadership abilities of black men, at least not since black officers were allowed to command white soldiers. Still, Obama's blackness does lend itself to the popular perception that he is different, and not just in regard to his race. His willingness to go help little people on Chicago's south side aided his credentials in ways that showcase his humanity, and the fact he's black seems to matter less as people get familiar with him.
Simply being a women or minority might not be enough to draw voters in, yet it could certainly lead voters away just as racism will impact Obama's vote totals. With minorities on both tickets, closet racism will have to do battle with closet sexism. Which will triumph?
In today's dumbed-down America, transcending race will surely be an achievement of grand proportions. An Obama victory would signify at a minimum that racism is incapable of preventing the election of a non-White president. Likewise a McCain-Palin would be a historic achievement for women, a victory over skeptics who believe a woman can't do a man's job.
Vast media resources will be directed towards analyzing the Palin and Biden picks, so I won't devote too much of my energies to these widely covered topics. Instead, I'd like to focus on the under-covered story of the week, which has come out of Denver. Obama's turned to the Right on Afghanistan and Georgia, despite Iraq Veterans Against the War's brave march through Denver.
On Wednesday, the Iraq Veterans Against the War delivered a message to an Obama aide after leading a lengthy, impromptu march across the city.
A video shows a Marine in dress uniform arriving near the Democratic National Convention to deliver a statement from that antiwar organization which is composed exclusively of Iraq veterans.
I was in Washington, DC, in September, 2007 and the IVAW led a honor guard with the flag inverted all the way from the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue. They were the leaders of the march, assisted by ANSWER and UFPJ, Code Pink, and other organizations.
Seeing the black T-shirts under the desert camoflage uniforms is an impressive visual cue. I captured the faces of IVAW participating in the September 15th ANSWER rally in Washington, D.C.. Iraq veterans formed a small advance party for the march--organizers kept all non-veterans out of the front.
I was able to capture some pictures of the group forming. (Here is one.
My first contact with IVAW people had left me impressed with their organization and discipline. I'm not surprised that so many people were willing to follow them in Denver, wherever they went, to demonstrate the injustice of the war.
They also seemed remarkable cogent and focused, angry yet restrained--like true warriors. Dedicated to their cause of ending the war, IVAW seemed highly organized and media savvy. One IVAW member, Adam Kokesh--whom I saw there in D.C.--had gotten himself arrested in Lafayette Park, in promoting the September 2007 march.
Kokesh can be seen in this picture, on the far left, in sunglasses. Also note the face-painted veteran. This group marched together the whole distance down Pennsylvania Avenue. My video of the march, available on the right side of this blog page (or at top level page www.jbpeebles.blogspot.com) has near its end a brief clip of the march advancing down Pennsylvania Avenue near the grounds of the Capitol Building. You can see the American flag carried upside down, a universal sign of protest.
Kokesh is a driven young man, and brave. Early in my video, I believe it is him who walks directly into a group of bicyclists who'd been chanting pro-war slogans. His pre-march provocations succeeded, at least in getting me to go to the march.
I'm pleased that IVAW and the anti-war movement were able to recreate some of their success in Denver. I'd read that IVAW had made a strategic decision to try to influence policy-makers, and recruit other veterans. I'm sure they made progress in those efforts, as trying to impact the top level makes sense in a top-down system like we now have in the US.
Still, looking at IVAW in their uniforms, in action, dignifies the face of the antiwar movement in ways that few demonstrators could achieve. IVAW belongs out front, leading from the front of the march, not trying to negotiate in the back rooms of Congress. I say as much in my blog entry Mass Protests Needed.
Obama did talk about the need to end the Iraq War in his acceptance speech. Unfortunately, he exudes a militarist bent on Afghanistan, believing I guess that it'll be different this time, that somehow because we see it as a just war, that we'll do better there than in Iraq. This shows his lack of understanding about war, and reflects that he's succumbed to the same nationalist temptations that launched the Iraq War which are based on the same exceptionalism, that we as Americans are granted through Providence a mightier army more capable of kicking ass than being kicked in the ass.
I doubt the Afghans defending their nation from foreign occupation will simply roll over in expectation of their defeat at our hands. Most of them may have never supported the Taleban, or conspired in some dark cave with bin Laden, but they do get to experience the presence of us infidels in their lands, dropping bombs, and killing thousands of their women and children in episodes termed "collateral damage" by our Pentagon.
On the issue that won him the nomination, Obama has backed off his antiwar position, at least outside of Iraq, and condoned confronting what he and Biden see as Russian aggression against (poor little) Georgia. Disappearing his dove credentials might be a cold calculation meant to increase Obama's appeal to a wider group of potential voters; still, militarism is the hallmark of Bush-style empire and might de-motivate traditional Democratic supporters, increasing the size of the protest vote.
Obama inspires a powerful cult of personality that may overshadow where he stands on the issues; being the candidate for change may be politically expedient, but not if the kind of changes Barack endorses alienate potential voters. In his nomination acceptance speech, Obama introduced a fairly typical set of traditional Democratic policies he plans to implement upon winning that stand out from Bush's largely because the neo-cons have taken this country so far to the Right.
Still, on the topic of foreign intervention, Obama has drifted to the right, presumably in an effort to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters than the antiwar movement alone--which is perhaps a flawed assumption since two-thirds of Americans support ending the war. If this huge contingent simply became single issue voters, showed up at the polls, and could get their votes counted, Obama would have the election wrapped up.
Unfortunately, politics is about far more than the war, and people now have greater concerns about the economy, their jobs, and their finances. This isn't to say that Iraq isn't important, but the cacophony of concerns makes it comparatively harder to care what happens on the other side of the world. If however, things in Iraq (and/or Afghanistan, Obama's preferred theatre of conflict) were to turn worse, the antiwar sentiments become more pronounced, and make an even larger impact, Obama would be wise to seek more prudent avenues of escape, rather than ratchet up talk of escalation.
Holding Obama to account is a vital part of a functioning democracy at war. Many voters likely feel betrayed for voting Democratic in hopes that party would stop the war.
The Democrats have really performed a huge betrayal on the war, unconditionally offering Bush and his cohorts a torrent of money to pay for the continued occupation of Iraq, even as it was recently revealed that Iraq had a $80 billion dollar surplus.
Recently Obama selected Joe Biden, who voted in support of the war. During Biden's acceptance speech at the Convention, he indicated that President Bush had misled him, which was I believe an accurate representation.
Still, with Biden's strongly pro-Georgian position, he can hardly be called a dove. The neo-con inspired regression towards a new Cold War displayed overconfidence in the uncontested military strength of the US, and helps to reject soft power as a more viable and cost-effective means of confronting our strategic competitors.
As I've written in back-to-back articles in OpedNews, the Georgian attack on pro-Russian breakaway provinces was unprovoked and pure belligerence. The Russia reaction was thoroughly anticipated, which led me to question why the attacks were commenced.
The political benefit of a spat with Russia may be to enhance McCain's poll numbers. The Arizona senator is constantly referred to in the MSM as someone with an advantage in national security. He does poll higher in regard to how Americans see him dealing with Russians.
Sadly, if triangulation is the primary political method of this election cycle, nothing is beyond politicization, including wars-of-choice, which are draped in the flag for their full patriotic effect. With Americans' understanding of foreign policy so anemic, there exists the strong temptation to take advantage of old antagonisms with Russia. Threatening the Russians resurrects the tired but comforting proposition that the US carries a big stick and can therefore intimidate (bully?) anyone else. Hardly mature or constructive, the politicization of war means that politicians have used wars not to achieve some practical strategic benefit but for self-aggrandizement.
Wars and threats of war tend to foster the illusion that Republicans are tougher, and harder on America's enemies than the political competition. Judging by the large numbers of American flags at the Palin appearance in Dayton, Ohio, complemented by the requisite chanting of "USA, USA," the GOP is eager to present itself as the more patriotic party. Wars--and starting them--are clearly the domain of militarists on the Right that form the core of GOP support. Finishing wars, however, may be more of a non-partisan duty, reserved not to any one political party but rather the War Party, the one that overshadows Washington, our foreign policy, and a large and growing chunk of the economy tied to the business of war-making.
Barack Obama made some wise comments about patriotism in his speech last night which, not by coincidence, now seems like ages ago. He said that we were all Americans, and needed to put country before party. This reconciliation appears to fall on deaf ears among the Republican faithful, who clearly weren't listening and instead just want to kick someone's ass, or at least pretend they can.
Restarting the Cold War would be the great send-off that Cheney and others could claim as their legacy, a blunder mightier even than the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, Russia might end up supporting freedom fighters in Afghanistan, just as we supported them when the Soviets invaded, although we call them terrorists now. Cuba and Venezuela might also be drawn closer to Russia; China has indicated their support as well. One consequence of empire-building is the formulation of opposing alliances--our nemesis is called the Shanghai Cooperative Alliance.
It's sad that Obama wants to continue down the Bush-inspired thread of War on Terror interventions, which suspiciously target only those nations with large energy reserves, rather than those which are the source of the problem: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Links on the Denver march are available here:
-1) "Police Block Veterans’ Access to DNC in Largest Protest to Date" by Alex Kane and Jessica Lee
-2) Kevin Gosztola's article on the IVAW march in OpEdNews.com
-3) "3,000 Vets, War Protesters Hand-Deliver Their Message" by Patti Thorn of the Rocky Mountain News. Two videos are linked from that article, accessible only through Internet Explorer; both were choppy, and one came through muted.
My still pictures of the 9/15 March: Halfway down this entry.
This article was submitted as an exclusive Friday evening. Here are some additional links of interest I've found since then:
"6 things Palin pick says about McCain," by Jim Vandehei & John Harris in politico.com.
HuffPo had some photos of Palin's infant son, who has Down's Syndrome. Palin apparently refuses to consider abortion under any circumstances. Texastrixie posted a good comment there.
I did see one nasty rumor that the child may be that of 17-year old Bristol, who apparently spent months hidden away "with mono." One source of this rumour may be the surprise of those close to Palin when they discovered she was pregnant, as written here in the Anchorage Daily News. Inky99 has all the rumors and innuendo at DailyKos.
Whatever the real story, Palin did in fact take a long flight from Dallas to Alaska, after her water had broken, which struck several commentators as risky considering her advanced age (for childbirth) and complications that could have risen from the birth of her youngest son Trig.