(Bumped up, cause yeah, we’re still talking about her!)
No, I’m not talking about Obama, but rather McCain’s VP selection, Sarah Palin. Not someone who particularly appeals to me politically; as a woman, I don’t see her selection causing my finger to hesitate in the voting booth. However, I notice that even the Washington punditry doesn’t seem to know why she was chosen — to shore up McCain’s base in the Western states, the states that are central to Obama’s election strategy.
The political culture of Republican women, particularly in the Western states, is poorly understood by most of the liberal bloggers and pundits. For them to laugh at Palin for beginning her political career as president of the PTA, or as “mayor of a town of 9,000,” does not seem a wise move if they don’t want to offend politically active GOP or independent women in the West. Town governments and state legislatures in the West are populated, if not in some cases controlled, by hundreds of Sarah Palins — although, it has to be said that Palin is more the image of that process than the substance. Part of this has to do with a pay vacuum: legislative jobs simply don’t pay as much as real-world jobs in many of these bodies, so GOP men with press-the-flesh talents often seek more lucrative employments outside of government (not a high-value career in the Republican view anyway). This leaves women to do the less-high-paying, caretaking work of running town governments and county legislatures (while the rich GOP guys who don’t hold office make the major decisions). At one point, back in the ’80s, the low-paid Colorado legislature was mostly women.
A lot of these GOP women get into politics out of strong conservative beliefs, but it’s not what fires all of them into public life. Democratic commentators have a dim grasp of the political motivations of Republican women, assuming it’s all about Bible-thumping. I have to think that for them, Palin’s selection is an exhilarating vindication. Snarks about small-town government and school boards are only going to energize the considerable kitchen-table organizations these women have toiled to create over the last 25 years. If the Obama campaign really wants to win the West, they’d best worry about their own “PUMA’s” (Party Unity My Ass folks) and give the Palin rattlesnake a wide berth. It’s not about her… it’s the very real and specific bloc she might appeal to.