Even though everyone in the UK will be affected by the American election, we don't get to vote in it. That is probably a good thing because no-one over here understands American politics, and what we are watching is not designed to capture the European vote. That Obama's campaign was to a degree so directed may prove to have been an error. Nevertheless, comment is free and here is my two-penneth on what I see going on.
It was a masterstroke of timing to diminish the attention that was directed at the Democratic Convention by announcing such an unusual VP candidate. It's an unusual name - she is no relative of Michael, but the word association cannot do her anything but good. Didn't he have a song about lumberjacks?
If you go to this site you will find a picture of Sarah Palin in a stars and stripes bikini toting a machine gun, labelled "Trailer Trash never looked so good". Scroll down the comments and you will find the two pictures that this image has been Photoshopped from. I have written before about not believing what you read or even what you see. Pictures can so easily be faked these days. However, timely reminder that it is, I wanted to think about the motives of those posting it, and the motives behind McCain's choice.
Of course, there will be some for whom the image of a bikini-clad doll with a gun will have the effect of reinforcing their vote for McCain, but they were always going to vote for the old war hero anyway - if they are sober enough to remember to. The purpose of the image, though, was to diminish Palin in the eyes of women. Obama has to convince Hilary supporters to vote for him. McCain has to spoil that. Hilary supporters are not a single constituency. There are the hard-line feminists and Palin will be anathema to them, just as Margaret Thatcher was. Then there is the Spanish-speaking constituency. George W had some appeal for these, speaking Spanish himself, but I guess that Palin adds nothing to that ticket.
Then there is the female blue collar vote. Obama managed to antagonise that in the Primary campaign, but despite Hilary's speech at the convention, there will be a lot of her supporters willing Obama to fail this time in order to give Hilary a chance in 2012. Some of these would vote for Palin just because she is a woman, but Palin does have blue-collar credentials. She has five kids. That is the lot of a lot of working class women. She has a daughter who has gone off the rails and got pregnant - far from diminishing her in the eyes of women, they will see this as one of the things that the ordinary woman has to put up with. She has a child with Down syndrome. If she were part of the Washington crowd she would undoubtedly have had a quiet abortion. Many working class women would not consider that - either for financial or religious reasons. Having a handicapped child and coping marks her out as a role model.
Here in Europe and amongst the liberal coastal elite in America, Palin exhibits traits that are horrifying. She is an Evangelical - she attends an Assemblies of God church and at least over here that is seen a a way out type of evangelical (don't they speak in tongues?). She is a Creationist. She is against abortion. She doesn't believe in global warming. She is against protecting Polar Bears. She is in favor of guns. Her husband works for the oil industry.
This is where Europeans don't understand Americans. Whereas in Europe evangelicals comprise no more than 5% of voters, in America they are a much larger constituency and this constituency is against abortion and is largely Creationist. The Catholic Biden, on the other hand will have his church against him if he pleads a woman's right to choose. In the UK the BBC assumes that the world is warming up because of human activity and has brainwashed the majority of voters; there are many more doubters in America. As for Polar Bears, their status as a protected species is a consequence of a Green myth. Their numbers are not diminishing and Al Gore's picture of mother and child stranded on an ice flow was pure propaganda; they had only short swim to the solid ice.
There may be more to discover about her and certainly the Democrats will be digging deeply. She will not be vulnerable to charges of inexperience lest the charge rebounds on Obama. If she is found to be corrupt it will hurt McCain because part of her attraction lies in her anti-corruption stance.
Whether any of this matters only time will tell, but it sure beats those boring speeches.