The possibility that McCain’s choice of Palin really did significantly affect the 2008 elections is one I find genuinely fascinating.
The question is obviously a good example of the fact that it’s essentially impossible to prove social science hypotheses involving causation, with the small number of trials making things even more difficult. What’s interesting about Johnston and Thorson’s data is that normally, when discussing the effect of VP choices, there isn’t even a correlation that could make a causal effect plausible. So, ultimately, it comes down to whose story you find convincing. Focusing solely on the facts of the 2008 race, I find the Johnston/Thorson explanation more satisfying. But we also have to place this in the context of previous data showing both that VP picks matter very little and that campaigns in general are overrated in their effect on elections, which strengthens the argument of skeptics.
The other thing to say is that even if Palin did have a substantial negative effect, it’s not even clear that McCain’s gamble was irrational — after all, he was almost certainly going to lose anyway, and losing by a bigger margin doesn’t really matter. It’s possible that the VP choices of trailing candidates might be less risk-averse in the future, leading to VP choices mattering more. On the other hand, aside from marginal home state effects there still isn’t a good plausible example of a VP having a significant positive effect, so the Palin debacle may make future selections even more risk-averse.
There’s much to ridicule in Sarah Palin’s new Facebook note, not the least of which would be her willingness to claim that her experience as Alaska’s governor — a job she bizarrely vacated less than a month ago — provided her with unique insight into the economic and legal nuances of health care reform. In a characteristically staggering moment of narcissism, Palin argues for some sort of equivalence between (1) her status as a “target” for ethics complaints and (2) doctors who face “false, frivolous, and baseless” lawsuits from “similar opportunists.” A sane, considerate adult would be embarrassed to say these things out loud, but to the degree that Palin is to politics what Dr. Nick Riviera is to medicine, the cheerful lack of self-awareness is hardly surprising.
In any event, the preliminary silliness is nothing more than a set-up for a semi-literate, boilerplate discourse on a decades-old Republican talking point (i.e., the alleged need for tort reform to cap malpractice awards). Palin, who implausibly claimed that the time and cost of fighting ethics complaints made it prohibitively expensive for her to do her job, apparently also believes that malpractice suits — which account for roughly 1 percent of health care spending in the US — are breaking the entire system. Like most conservatives who argue for “tort reform,” Palin elides the difference between “frivolous” suits (which the courts, by all accounts, do an efficient job of rejecting) and decisions rendered by juries in actual cases of malpractice. Her solution, predictably, is to use the thunderous power of the state to cap awards; for someone who believes phantom “death panels” are looming over the horizon, Palin’s faith that government can establish a fair ceiling on the economic value of human life is remarkable. Ultimately, capping malpractice damages might have the effect of reducing malpractice suits, but it will reduce legitimate ones as well, and it won’t do anything to reduce the cost of liability insurance, which represents far and away a greater weight on the cost of health care than any malpractice suit that winds its way through the courts. More significantly, the link between “tort reform” and better, safer health care is opaque at best. I’m sure Sarah Palin has an explanation for why damage caps will spur medical practitioners to new heights of Hippocratic vigilance, but she’s probably trying to decide how that issue relates to something she did while she was mayor of Wasilla.
Suzy Khimm offers some thoughts on the presence of LaRouchites along the midways of various health care town halls.
The LaRouchies’ logic seems virtually indistinguishable from the current right-wing fear-mongering. “Citizens are receiving Hitler-era ‘reasons’ for why they must accept drastic medical cutbacks, sickness, and death,” LaRouche writes on his site. “For example, you must forego what is called ‘wasteful, excessive treatment,’ during your end-of-life months.” The only difference between their agitations and the far right’s histrionics? Larouchies maintain that Obama and his cronies are in cahoots with HMOs and the insurance industry-and that the real solution to their fascistic agenda is a single-payer plan (which would presumably be rid of its Hitler-inspired leadership, though they don’t go into the details).
I suspect the LaRouchites would argue that once HMOs are abolished and placed on trial for crimes against humanity, their political enablers will join them in the dock — thus turning the American political system over to a new class of leaders who are determined at last to do battle against the English Crown.
Nuance aside, Khimm is obviously correct to point out the crossover between LaRouche and the Soylent Green Right; however, she fails to notice the most obvious (and literal) link in the axis. While Sarah Palin’s views on the Queen of England and her role in the international drug trade are, as yet, undisclosed, LaRouche has been a perennial advocate of a Land Bridge to Nowhere, connecting Asia and the Americas by tunneling under the Bering Strait. LaRouche’s ideas are custom-made for someone like Palin, whose “Drill, Baby, Drill” mantra could be easily adapted to support yet another federally-funded project to benefit a state comprised of independent, freedom-loving people who proudly reject federal funds except when, like, they prefer not to.
. . . and then rips the knob right off the amplifier.
I imagine that being a non-Wingnut Republican these days is like being in one of those hyper-dysfunctional families where Uncle Bob always gets trashed at family gatherings and moons everybody before falling face first into the jello mold.
You just sort of have to close your eyes and pretend you didn’t see that.
So I left Alaska about a month ago
to embark upon a violent, multi-time zone bender a prolonged vacation, happy in the knowledge that the de-Palinization of the state would be more or less complete when I returned. Between blackouts stays with various wings of the family, I avoided most news sources, with the exception perhaps of a few unendurable moments of Wolf Blitzer that I accidentally watched while trying to find Man v. Food. Had it not been for the impending arrival of the Farley Heiresses, I would have avoided the internet completely during that time. So while I’m told that a significant fraction of the news media felt compelled for some reason to continue talking about Sarah Palin, my life has been comfortably unperturbed for the past four weeks; I didn’t even bother to read her farewell address, though about a thousand people e-mailed me with links to William Shatner’s brilliant rendition of a speech that I imagine was composed between huffs of gold spraypaint.
All of this I mention only to try to remind myself why an attitude of Zen-like detachment is vastly preferable to caring about stories like this, which — like nearly everything regarding the Palins’ private lives — is plausible enough, but holy shit, why bother anymore? I mean, there’s a guy on the teevee who eats chocolate-covered bacon and hamburgers pinned between grilled cheese sandwiches, and yet some people would rather talk about the former governor of Alaska. Weird.
Palin is pretty much the culmination of recent trends in Republicanism and movement conservatism.
See Adam, Steve, Jill and Steve for the obvious rejoinder to Douthat’s claim that it’s only politicians of Palin’s gender and class background who can expect that their “children will go through the tabloid wringer” and their “religion will be mocked and misrepresented.” Even leaving aside the press’ longstanding war on Clinton and Gore, as Adam notes we have an excellent ongoing example of an Ivy League meritocrat being subjected to all kinds of race-and-gender driven attacks in Sonia Sotomayor. Palin was indeed subjected to some attacks based on her gender and class (as well as many more perfectly legitimate and substantive ones), but this ongoing conservative meme that there’s something unusual about the vitriol directed at Palin is absurd.
Roy has more on winger reactions to the Palin resignation here.
Glenn Beck is funny:
Seriously, what sort of “creative extremism” is Palin supposed to practice now that she’s gone Galt on Alaska and thrown off the gubernatorial shackles? Will she ride a unicycle? Wander the land holding a giant puppet? I must confess that I don’t understand why folks are straining to find some sort of credible motive or strategy in Palin’s resignation, as if she actually still possessed a political future, much less a chance of running the country. Though we have a tradition in the US of electing Presidents who have lost previous campaigns for lower office, there’s no precedent for advancing quitters to the White House.
Moreover, Palin’s central argument — that she’s doing this for the good of her state — is just bizarre; no one resigns from state office “for the good of the state” unless they’re morally or legally compromised. The last people who genuinely believed their resignations were for “the good of the state” happened to be Confederates, resigning from federal office to preserve a racial caste system. Given Palin’s bizarre political upbringing, I suppose that’s not an inapt tradition from which to draw hope — but though many ex-Confederates managed to get their jobs back, I don’t think there’s a chance that Sarah Palin can be reconstructed or redeemed.
Kristol backed derivatives are crashing. His crowning achievement in Republican party politics was Sarah Palin. He’s trying to make lemonade, but I don’t think anyone is buying:
It’s an enormous gamble – but it could be a shrewd one.
After all, she’s freeing herself from the duties of the governorship. Now she can do her book, give speeches, travel the country and the world, campaign for others, meet people, get more educated on the issues – and without being criticized for neglecting her duties in Alaska. I suppose she’ll take a hit for leaving the governorship early – but how much of one? She’s probably accomplished most of what she was going to get done as governor, and is leaving a sympatico lieutenant governor in charge.
And haven’t conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she’ll try to be that. She may not succeed. Everything rests on her talents, and on her performance. She’ll be under intense and hostile scrutiny, and she’ll have to perform well.
All in all, it’s going to be a high-wire act. The odds are against her pulling it off. But I wouldn’t bet against it.
Continetti gamely tries to back up the Bossman:
Palin’s statement made clear that, while she’ll be leaving the governor’s office, she is not leaving the national stage. Her book is scheduled for release sometime next year. She pledged to support candidates in the upcoming elections without regard to partisan affiliation. She took aim at the Obama administration’s budget-busting spending policies. Palin’s enemies have already taken today’s news to suggest that her political career is over. It isn’t. But Palin may also be thinking that her retirement from office will cause her critics to stop attacking her. She would be wrong to think so. Neither Palin nor the Palin-haters are going away.
As I’ve suggested before, Kristol occupies a central space in the network of right wing media/think tank types. Vast swaths of the Republican intelligentsia are deeply invested in his success, and he invested himself in the success of Sarah Palin. The Palin stocks have now crashed, and that may turn the investment in Kristol toxic. Kristol and his backers will, for a time anyway, deal with the problem by simply refusing to acknowledge that anything has gone wrong. When Jonah Goldberg is jumping ship, though, things aren’t looking good.
While we wait for Noon’s on-the-scene reportage, I thought I’d mention that I agree with Steve’s take on the Purdum article; it’s either stuff you already know or not very damning. A representative example of what, when you strip the pejorative language/sexist double standards, is pretty weak tea as exposes go:
In dozens of conversations during a recent visit to Alaska, it was easy to learn that there has always been a counter-narrative about Palin, and indeed it has become the dominant one. It is the story of a political novice with an intuitive feel for the temper of her times, a woman who saw her opportunities and coolly seized them. In every job, she surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived.
Or, in other words, she’s…a politician. How many political figures of any consequence could most of this not be applied to? The same goes for the alleged dirt about her family; basically, I don’t see anything she’s done wrong that would be worth mentioning, which is rather more than you can say for, say, Saint McCain. The guilt-by-association we can recognize from Purdum’s Clinton story and it’s not really much more convincing, although at least it involves her family rather than her business associates.