It has become clear by now--has it not?--that John McCain has abjectly surrendered whatever independence he once had to the rabid right wing of his party. The more I read and the more I hear, the more I see this Sarah Palin as Bush cubed. She is possessed of the same messianic certainty, the same unapologetic bellicosity, the same conviction in herself and her own rightness, the same evangelical fervor. From all reports it seems, too, that her cronyism and petty vengefulness is equal to, if not greater than that of the current occupant of the White House.
It's my current belief that McCain was cowed into her selection by voices he had apparently no will nor power to resist; and that those voices, having foisted Bush upon us and now having astutely chosen Palin as their front, are firmly back in control of the Republican party. (The Frank Rich op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times is relevant to this line of thought.) The prospect that they might succeed in maintaining their stranglehold on those who vote their "gut" is frightening indeed. Ignorance is nourished by a steady diet of deception, secrecy, and outright lies; and the ignorant, thinking to wreak vengeance on their supposed tormentors, bring it instead upon themselves.
Ellie and I went to an Obama rally at a private home in the Hollywood yesterday afternoon. The admission cost was greater than any of our previous contributions but not outrageously beyond what we could afford, so we made the stretch. We hope others are doing the same. In any event, the featured guest was Governor Howard Dean, who spoke eloquently of the fix in which we find ourselves--and optimistically about Obama's chances for the fall.
Most notably, he spoke about the power of the new constituency of the young--for whom, he argued, and like whom Obama speaks. It's the constituency that Dean himself stirred to life in 2004, before his campaign sputtered in Iowa. These young people speak a different language from their elders, are skilled in a whole other means of communication with their laptops and cell phones; even the evangelical Christians in this age group, he said, reveal themselves in polls to be more concerned with issues like poverty, climate change and the ongoing genocide in Darfur than with race, reproductive rights and gay marriage; they are polyglot, unconcerned with the issues with which their parents struggled; and they are understandably concerned about a future which they can no longer entrust to their parents's generation. The failures and betrayals of trust are just too obvious to overlook.
Catching him in the throng a few minutes later, I asked Dean about the power of that famed Republican base. I summarized the point I made above: McCain seems now to have thrown in his lot with that far right-wing base. Is the new constituency of which Dean spoke strong enough to counterbalance, even overwhelm it? He assured me that he thought the time for that once powerful group was past, and that the coming election would prove his point. Given the ambient noise of a by-now rowdy party, I'm not sure that I accurately heard what he added next--but I think it was "If not this time, then next time around." I hope that I misheard!
The governor also disputed the numbers commonly thrown around about women voters turning to McCain following the Palin nomination. I didn't have the presence of mind to write them down, but the poll numbers he quoted showed the post-convention "surge" to have been predominantly male. Following Dean was a former deputy chief of staff from the Clinton White House (my apologies to this eloquent and well-informed speaker: I did not catch her name,) who added some useful insights and assured us that the majority of women--including those who had supported Hillary, as she had done in the primaries--would not be fooled by the Palin sideshow. And, finally, the film and television actress Felicity Huffman, one of the moving spirits behind the fund-raiser, spoke with genuine feeling about her concern as a mother for her two daughters in a political environment that threatens the security of their future.