The Republican Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole with McCain-Palin
| September 5, 2008
After four days of following the Republican convention, I know what Alice must have felt when she fell down the rabbit hole. The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota was an unreal place.
The Center -- where the Republican faithful gathered-- with its high tech design and clean, beautiful stage just didn't fit with the medieval nature of the party's platform toward woman and the ugliness of a McCain team convention script channeling the 19th century.
Speaker after speaker and most of the delegates interviewed on the floor followed the basic message of that script.
It called for continuing tax cuts for the most wealthy in the spirit of McKinley and the robber barons.
It constantly referenced the protection of the unborn, repeating the party's platform opposing abortion even in the cases of rape and incest.
It used phrases related to the 21st century, like “energy independence” and “environmental protection”, but its content didn't sound like the reality of America's women's lives outside the Energy Center.
As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice,"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
And so it went, the Humpty Dumpty script ruled with half-facts. The truth was stretched. Delegates and speakers heralded McCain and Palin as mavericks who would clean up Washington and make things right for Americans. They pretended that McCain and the Republicans were not largely responsible for the mess they decried.
"Rabbit hole politics" hit its zenith with John McCain's acceptance speech. McCain has spent 25 years in Washington as a Republican elected official. Last night McCain-- who has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time in recent years-- attempted to disown the President and to pretend that the Republicans were not the party of the governing establishment. It was a bizarre performance.
All week long the convention script described McCain as a maverick.
Last night in a shift from the culture war intensity of the previous days, McCain made a soft pitch for nonpartisanship. He labeled himself a maverick who works for the public, not special interests or a party.
Yet he has proven to be a cynical partisan politician and has bowed to the forces of regression within his party.
In exchange for the strong financial and grassroots backing of the religious right forces that have run the national Republican social agenda since 1980, McCain gave them their choice for vice president and the possible future of the GOP.
This was not the move of a reformer. It was a gift to those who have kept themselves in power by using a backlash strategy to win the votes of people fearful of the goals of the feminist movement.
Since l980, the religious right has grown used to mothers in elected positions. It no longer has any discomfort with a woman in the White House as long as she is one of theirs. John McCain has launched Sarah Palin as the new leader of the religious right. She is their Joan of Arc.
Like the Red Queen, Sarah Palin has one view, hers, on issues directly facing all women. She opposes sex ed in the schools, birth control, emergency contraception and abortion under all circumstances.
In a desperate attempt to win women the GOP has ignored for years, McCain sold out. Like both Bush presidents, he gave in to the special interests of the religious right.
A new ABC News poll out today reports that "Palin's initial impact on voter preferences and on views of McCain looks like a wash, and contrary to some prognostication, she does not draw disproportionate support from women. But she could potentially assist McCain by energizing the GOP base, in which her reviews are overwhelmingly positive."
Hillary's women voters are not fooled as polls in the last few days indicate. The majority are moving toward Obama. The McCain convention script will help convince them that McCain-Palin will NOT bring health care for all, provide tax cuts for the middle class, shore up social security, create new green jobs, protect the environment, honorably bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and restore the world's respect for our country.
They are not convinced that McCain's military background is what America needs to keep America safe in this new, inter-dependent world.
As for McCain's cruel positions on reproductive issues, it's hard to believe that there are many Hillary voters who would agree with them. Palin didn't talk about these in her first speech to the convention.
Her tough style was like Richard Nixon's running mate Spiro Agnew, who did Nixon's dirty work in the highly charged l968 campaign with speeches often written by Pat Buchanan.
Outside of promising to be an advocate for special needs children, Palin played the traditional role of a vice-presidential nominee. With verve that seemed to excite the males in her audience more than the females, she hypocritically attacked Obama and Biden. She made it appear that they were responsible for the highest federal government debt in American history. Again I felt like Alice.
What Wonderland were these Mad Hatters and Humpty Dumptys of 2008 living in? Bush, Cheney and the Republican House and Senate are responsible for this debt, as well as many of the other problems facing our nation in the last almost eight years.
During that time Republicans have run the White House. Until January 2007, Republicans controlled both the U.S. House and Senate. They are responsible for this historic debt.
Today, the House is controlled by the Democrats but their legislation rarely becomes law. Republicans have paralyzed a 51-49 Senate with the help of McCain's friend, former Democrat and now Independent U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Through filibuster and threat of filibuster, the Senate Republicans have stopped passage of most legislation.
Despite the McCain team showcasing Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, both successful women business executives who spoke of his appetite for reform and their observations that he "values the contributions of women to our nation," McCain contradicts their faith in him.
If he cannot reform his party, he has shown he does not value women.
This convention is more reactionary than the one that nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. If McCain thinks he can reform his party when he's President, he's mistaken. The rules passed now will govern the 2012 convention and only an uprising in the GOP could change them-- a highly unlikely prospect.
As President, McCain will let the religious right craft his Administration's social policy decisions including appointing justices to the Supreme Court in the Scalia-Thomas mode. McCain is interested in foreign and defense policy where he has mainly supported the Bush agenda.
Whether he wins or loses, he has killed any moderating of the GOP.
It is now completely a hard-right-of center party, interested in solving the problems of American women by following the Palin path. Orwell would have recognized the audaciousness of the GOP's "rabbit hole" politics. The Republicans have nominated a woman for VICE President even as its policies keep women from making their own choices.
On the day McCain announced his selection of Palin, the Commerce Department reported that personal incomes dropped by the largest amount in three years and consumer spending had slowed significantly.
Food and energy prices continue to rise even as the price of gas has slowed down slightly.
Democratic nominee Barack Obama calls for a second stimulus package.
The Republican convention speakers were too busy attacking the Democrats to talk seriously about the economy except to cry for tax cuts and offshore oil drilling.
McCain has been a consistent supporter of the supply-side economic policies of the Bush Administration. He has not indicated he would change them as President.
By appointing a woman as his running mate, McCain finally broke the presidential glass ceiling in the Republican party, but his gesture is an empty symbol. It brings little.
Until the party can adopt policies that will help more than well-off women, the GOP is not the friend of America's women. That is the most significant fact to come out of the St. Paul convention.