McCain’s Pander Pick For VPAugust 29, 2008
As the overdose of punditry over the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate overwhelms casual readers everywhere, I thought I might as well add my own take on the matter. And if there is a single word that immediately comes to mind, it would be “pander”.
I mean, is there really any other way to look at it? I’m no political scientist, but it seems to me that there are three rationales at work when a presidential candidate selects a running mate, and it would come down to a) who helps one’s chances getting elected, b) who would help one govern effectively, and c) who would be a logical successor to the presidency. On the surface the selection of Sarah Palin would satisfy (a), and that’s about it.
-Well, first, you’ve got a presidential candidate that, throughout the primaries, was derided by the Rush’s and Hannity’s of the world as not being conservative enough. So, check the box for the conservative pander, since it would appear that Palin is solidly on that side of the fence.
-Second, as I’ve pointed out with a few posts on the PUMA’s, there is a certain percentage of the female voting block that would be inclined to fill the feminist gap now that Hillary is out of the race, and/or is bitter, having viewed the campaign (or the media coverage thereof) as sexist, or whatever. For voters out there who wanted to cast their vote for a woman, Palin picks up the baton from Clinton. So, check the box for the female pander.
-Third, in Palin you have something that is slightly less tangible, but possibly more powerful than the first two. Much of political campaigning involves principles of marketing, and marketing 101 students learn about the principle of liking and attractiveness:
Liking. “People prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like,” Cialdini says. In negotiations and sales situations, one can influence the outcome by developing a kinship with prospective clients or being familiar to them. Being physically attractive is also a big advantage. Research shows that people attribute talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence to people they find attractive.
Palin, as a former runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, is still attractive at 44, and her “hockey mom” likability is likely what helped her win her own elections. The McCain camp is probably counting on injecting this principle as an attempt to offset what Obama brings to the table in this regard. So, I suppose one can say that they’re pandering to the emotional side of the electorate.
-Finally, there is something to be said about what Obama’s selection of Biden did to influence this pick. We may be seeing a bit of political chess being played here, specifically with regard to the upcoming debates. Someone in McCain’s circle probably figured that it won’t be hard for the fiery Biden to appear as a big bully when going one-on-one with the cute female Alaskan governor. In the very least, this dynamic could serve to handcuff Biden in light of how the machine of spin and subsequent perception works. A couple of 5 second clips could be all that is needed to cement this impression, and the opportunity to do so would be something that McCain’s people will be looking for. If you expand on that theme and include treatment from the rest of the Obama camp, the punditry and the broader media, you can see where this might play into their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out, but some are already urging their fellow detractors to tread carefully.
Also, its conceivable that McCain went out of his way to select someone that wasn’t an opponent in the primaries, thereby avoiding the threat of past criticism and appearances of hypocrisy being used against him as we head towards November. Again, political chess.
But do you notice that none of those considerations actually has anything to do with effectively running the country? Say what you want about Biden (I have), but with Obama’s pick, at least one can say that there was more attention placed on the aforementioned (b) and (c), that’s for sure.
It’s been pointed out that, given McCain’s advanced age, reliance solely on this rationale is risky (both politically and otherwise). New Republic columnist Peter Scoblic opines that the selection even reveals a certain level of arrogance on McCain’s part. I think he makes a pretty good point. Let’s hope that the rest of America sees it that way as well.