Today came the stunning news that McCain picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.
It was definitely a "Wow" piece of news. But once I got past the initial reaction of "hasn't he been bold" and "That was unexpected" and "she's young, she's a woman, this is an exciting pick (unlike Obama's)", my feeling is that McCain has made a mistake.
McCain is trying to win over Hillary Clinton supporters who are unenthused by Obama. If I was an American, I would definitely be in the Clinton camp. I thought she was improving as the campaign went on, I thought that she was the better candidate in terms of intellect and a demonstrable ability to go on a very fast learning curve (important for presidents as you have to be able to adapt to events) - by comparison, Obama was far more static. I thought that she was refreshingly upfront about how centrist her policies were, whereas Obama played left and then abandoned his positions - ironic in that the Clintons are supposed to be the devious ones, and Obama supposed to be above it all. She lost because of caucus results in no-hope Republican states and the crazy Dem election system.
So McCain's pick is supposed to be aimed at people like me. Only Sarah Palin is just wrong for those who care about women's rights (as all Hillary supporters do). Palin strongly supports capital punishment, is a creationist and is a fervent anti-abortionist (and is anti gay people too).
The vice president nominees in this election are unusually important in that there is a great likelihood that the elected president may die in office (Obama through assasination by KKK nutters and McCain from old age). Therefore if McCain got elected, Palin might end up as president. How would Hillary feminists feel about that? That their idol Hillary is denied the honour of becoming the first female president and this anti-abortionist with one tenth of Hillary's brains, who was a beauty-queen of all things, gets it instead? God forbid. I'd vote Obama just to deny Palin the chance. Sarah Palin just isn't in Hillary Clinton's league. It's actually an insult to women that McCain thinks we'd simply vote on gender regardless of whether the candidate is qualified to be president.
For Hillary's other constituency of working class voters, Palin brings nothing to the table. She hasn't any reputation of turning round economies or helping the poor (unlike the Clintons). Plus she's inexperienced.
So I think this is a stroke of luck for Obama, who has been struggling thus far. Yes, people like me would have preferred Mrs Clinton to have been the candidate. We think she'd have made a good VP too. We've been irritated at how much the Obama people dump on the Clintons (especially as Mrs Clinton has been the most helpful of all losing Dem nominee candidates in history). We're irritated at the whole Messiah stuff that surrounds Obama, and we're convinced that he will turn out conventional and not change-making in office.
But, elections are about choosing the least worst candidate. Obama is streets ahead of McCain on foreign policy, simply because he has no hang-ups and will view things with an objective eye (which is all you can ask of US presidents). McCain's hang-up is that he was part of the Vietnam war. America lost Vietnam. McCain lost personally too, as he ended up a POW who cracked under torture and repudiated his own country. In other words, he ended up a loser too. All his belligerence stems from this need to make up for being a loser. In a way, his psychological flaw is worse than Dubya's (which was to compete with his father by doing the opposite of everything Papa Bush did - Bush Sr hated Rumsfeld, so Dubya appoints him, Bush Sr didn't go to Baghdad, so Dubya decides to and so on). America has never elected a Vietnam veteran because of fears about their psychology.
On domestic policy, McCain has admitted that he knows nothing about economics, and there is no sign that his VP pick knows much either. Which negates Obama's inexperience. The best candidate on the economy was Mrs Clinton, but she's not on offer. You might as well roll the dice and go for Obama in these circumstances.
So despite the hammering that Obama is getting from the negative McCain ads, I think Obama will win, because the Clinton people will back him, and he has a good get-out-the-vote operation. The Labour party should watch closely, because the attacks on Obama arn't that dis-similar to the attacks on Brown (out of touch with people like you and so on). The Dems in the past have been as bad as Labour in getting out their vote. If Obama wins because he changes this aspect, then we should try it here.