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Progressive Revival

Lay Off Palin – Please! (by Eric Sapp)

Eric Sapp is a Democratic faith outreach strategist and former partner at Common Good Strategies.  He is currently director of, and founding partner at the Eleison Group.



An election does not go by without someone paraphrasing Will Roger’s famous quotation about not being a part of an organized Party because we are Democrats.  Well, as Democrats, we may not be organized, but we sure are predictable…and we have walked–nay, sprinted–right into the trap Republicans laid for us with the Palin nomination. 


The glee with which liberal bloggers, Democratic pundits, and the media latched on to the fact that Palin’s inexperience makes her less qualified to be President than Obama–as if doing so would somehow undermine the GOP attack on Obama as inexperienced–is mind-boggling. 



A friend of mine summed up the problem with our side’s engaging in this debate over experience best: “Obama is our starting QB, but she’s their back-up.”  So even if we win the argument that Palin doesn’t have enough experience to be President, we lose.  Because, of all the reasons Obama is a better pick than McCain, experience is not one of them.


It’s not as if Obama is a walk-away winner in this comparison with Palin either.  A Rasmussen poll that came out yesterday found that only 42% of Americans think Obama’s experience better equips him to be President than Palin, while 37% think Palin’s experience is better, and 21% are undecided. 



Perhaps most importantly, every minute we spend attacking Palin’s experience is one less minute we’re spending talking about Democratic values, jobs, the healthcare crisis, President Bush, and other things we want voters focused on as they head to the ballot box…and by making the case to voters that McCain made a poor choice because of Palin’s inexperience, we just reinforce one of the central Republican arguments that experience is a key factor voters should be considering. 


Unfortunately, our attacks have not stopped there, though.  I’ve lost count of the number of times our side has said she isn’t qualified to be President or to know what’s in the best interest of Americans b/c she’s from a small town.  Here’s a newsflash: millions of American voters LIVE IN SMALL TOWNS.  They are the swing voters Obama must win over to become President. And our condescending comments about Palin’s small-town roots work only to further alienate this important portion of the electorate. 



And while the fact that Palin shoots, cleans, and eats her own moose might result in some snickers in the coffee shops of large cities, that stuff is gold throughout much of this country. 


But the worst of the Democratic responses to Palin’s nomination have been the character attacks on her as a bad mom because her daughter got pregnant out of wedlock.  Those sorts of attacks are morally repugnant whether they are made by social conservatives or by Democrats attacking social conservatives.  But they are also strategically dumb.  When many of the blogs and media started dissecting the revelation about Palin’s pregnant daughter, they showed how little they understand middle America and religious conservatives by acting as if that would be a major blow to the ticket and proof that McCain rushed into his VP choice without vetting. 



I would bet money that Palin’s pregnant daughter was one of the key reasons Republicans chose her.  Having a pregnant daughter, especially one “taking responsibility for her actions” (by “choosing” to have the baby), just makes Palin more “real” for her flaws, and a mom with whom many in middle America can relate. 


Republicans thrive on being “persecuted,” and they knew that our side would not be able to contain itself from the opportunity to level the same vicious character attacks on Palin that we always condemn in the Religious Right and GOP.  And that we’d just spice up those attacks by throwing in some elitism and disdain for small town rural folks.  And Republicans could rest assured that we’d come back at Palin using their definition of “family and Christian values” instead of by questioning how Palin’s Party could claim to represent Christ’s values while supporting torture and cutting programs that help the poor, the sick, and the needy…or claim to be Pro-Life and then cut WIC and veto the expansion of children’s health care.



Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the Republican electoral strategies…but instead of focusing so much on what we don’t like about Republican politics that we lose sight of who we are and why we are Democrats, we need to get our head in the game and start showing some respect and understanding for the millions of working Americans in middle America we are asking to vote for us. 


Palin may very well mess up on the campaign trail (we can always hope), and there could be a skeleton lurking in the closet that has yet to be revealed.  But right now, especially after her convention speech, we need to accept that she was an extremely smart choice by the Republicans and could very well be a game-changer in this election.  But here’s the thing: She can be a game changer only if we keep the game focused on her. 



She’s more personable (and a whole lot prettier) than McCain.  She has better appeal to the GOP base and to the rural blue collar voters that Obama struggled so hard to win over during the primary.  And the more we attack her, the more many Americans will want to come to her defense.  So rather than focusing our attention on a woman running for “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived,” as John Adams put it, let’s lay off Palin…and return our attention to the only way we will win this election: by focusing on Democratic values, jobs, and the fact that the Republicans are responsible for the disaster that has been the Bush Administration. 




Comments read comments(15)
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posted September 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm

With a stroke of the pen, Gov. Palin made it harder for unwed mothers to take care of children. She made it more of a challenge to chose life over abortion for pregnant girls. She CUT FUNDING for woman who are pregnant, How is that helping with family values?
Every time she took out her VETO stamp, she hurt the middle class and the poor. She is not the person she wants us to believe she is. But the most important thing is that she has changed her view of taxing oil companies because she has in the past taxed them the most but now that she is part of McCain’s team, she will have to say she wants to give it all back and put the burden on the middle class.
It is not that Palin is that bad of a choice, its that she is on the McCain ticket. The Maverick has become the Bull and he is trying to get into the China Shop with favored deals for China, Oil and smashing the working class of America by shipping Union jobs overseas.
Unions built the prosperity of America. When Reagan became President of America, prosperity started downhill by the Anti-labor movement of the GOP. Anybody who thinks that the GOP cares about the working men and women of America, I’ve got lake front property in the Mojave Desert for you.

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posted September 5, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Wow, here’s something you don’t see very often on the internet: an insightful, articulately-expressed, and very level-headed point of view. Well done, sir, well done. This is great advice for Democratic bloggers (and campaign strategists).
And I say this as a McCain supporter! (Although one unhappy with the choice of Palin. I would have preferred McCain show his true stripes and stick with his friend Joe Lieberman, but I understand that like all politicians, he has to form some uneasy alliances.)

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posted September 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Just to be clear, my above comment referred to the article, not to the comment that preceded mine!

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posted September 5, 2008 at 3:09 pm

A comment for Eric. Everything you mentioned is very insightful and well analyzed. It would be nice if all parties on every side of the aisle thought things through as well as you have. I like her. That said I’m in complete agreement with your analysis and wish everyone would focus on the problems this country is facing and reduce if not eliminat the meaningless jabs at each other.

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Eric Sapp

posted September 5, 2008 at 3:17 pm

I agree completely with Scruffy’s opening paragraph and wish that had been the approach we’d taken to Palin early on. It actually took a little while for this article to post, and this morning I’ve seen some positive shifts in the way we are framing this discussion…but the longer we keep up the counter-productive attacks and frameworks, the more innoculated she will be when we finally get on-message.
Palin is not a hypocrit b/c she cut funding for programs that might have kept her daughter from getting pregnant. The hypocrisy comes from her cutting programs that result in more unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions) and vetoing support for women and their babies. That is a policy and values debate we can have and win, and it brings the discussion back to our strengths as a Party.
Thanks and looking forward to the dialogue on this site.

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posted September 5, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Thank you for your thoughts Eric. Listening to Palin’s speech raised grave concerns for me and not because of her gender, or her family, or where she is from, but because I have strong disagreements with her policies and believe they will not help improve conditions in this country. I recently read a great post on what it means to be a person of faith engaged in politics that was set in the specific context of the Palin debate. The author of that column wrote:
“As a Democrat, I am tempted to mock her [Palin] for politically expedient reasons. But as a Christian, I recognize that attacking a person’s family, particularly her children, is never appropriate. I can love my neighbor while adamantly disagreeing with her, but I cannot love my neighbor while mocking her family’s trials and tribulations.”
Find the full column here:

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posted September 5, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Your comments are provocative and worthy of consideration. However, we cannot allow the question as to whether Ms. Palin abused her powers as Governor to go without investigation, particularly in light of the abuses of the Bush administration over the past 8 years. If the charges are without merit then prove it and move on, the fact that the McCain campaign has resorted to an obstructionist response to this line of query is highly suspicions and frankly, reminds me of the initial response of the Nixon administration to the Watergate inquiry.

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posted September 5, 2008 at 5:00 pm

OMG, you Obama people really are idiots! The Republican attack machine hasn’t even warmed up yet and Obama has supplied them with enough ammunition to start WWIII. Do yourself a favor, please Google:
Ayers Obama
Wright Obama
Farrakhan Obama
Odinga Obama
al Mansour Obama
Rezko Obama
Believe me, the Republicans already have.
And now a lawsuit (to which Obama must respond, won’t THAT make for some fun reading!) has been filed by a Democrat challenging Obama’s citizenship. Can you say “October surprise?”

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Yoshiyyahu Hoffman

posted September 6, 2008 at 1:36 pm

I have a bigger problem than what is being mentioned here! The whole of the liberal political machine has one objective! And that being to turn this nation into a Socilistic State with no mention of G-D anywhere. That will also include the United Nations as a supplimental security force for what has even been termed “Their New Americanism” which includes internment camps and a foreign security force within the United States. Not a Theory, it is already here!
Did anybody listen to the Clintons close? Are they really hearing the words of Obama? Or are we all more like a tape worm trapped in the bowels of a liberal media and a government being run by liberal socialistic commitees?
Your artical was well written and has good objectivity, but the real train left the station before the passengers arrived. I am neither a Democrate nor a Republican and don’t want to be neither! And now I am going to make a radical statement to both parties! If this Government is going to make fundemental changes then we should go back to the original voting standard (meaning only those who own property and pay taxes should enjoy the right to vote), and with all of our technology we should institute a direct vote system and wipe out the electorial system of today (no need to wait for someone on horseback to arrive with a general count anymore). Thus allowing the people who actually work and provide for the welfare of this nation to have a proper word in what this nation should be! If a person benefits from a testimony in Court then his testimony is not allowed in most cases, however almost 28% percent of Americans are receiving some form of social aid. heck, Must of New York Cities inhabitants are in subsidary housing of some sort! That only serves one mechanism in this country…. The liberal mechanism, which by the way are even trying to ban the generic prayer before eating at the Naval academy….a 300 year tradition being attacked….where will it all end? Yes LAY OFF PALIN AND EVERYTHING ELSE THAT STANDS FOR ANYTHING! or we will be left with nothing very soon.

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posted September 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Face it. I know you guys mean well, but you have gotten yourselves an elitist party. They put in oligarchical judges who use long chains of inference to overrule the will of the people. The reason that gives the Republicans traction is because enough people see that in The Party of Soros.

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posted September 9, 2008 at 9:46 am

i kindly like to ask that blogger calling himself a “Christian” sitting on the Democrat fwnxw post. i am a single issue voter and so are three voters in my family. I am not ashamed to be a Christian, we ought to be like Christ as ascribed in KJ original version Bible. do you think Jesus would do as Obama did as Illinois state senator allowed partial birth? do you know what partial birth process is all about? it is about render the still born, helpless baby to its death, cut it to pieces and casted to trash bin. now you tell me do, you think Jesus will stand beside this butcher watching this process going on in Plan Parenthood clinic butcher shop in America? only in America as far as i know! the Democrat Party rejoice letting this carry-on with the help of NOW feminist special interest group. do you think Jesus will vomit at this scene? killing the unborn is foremost hideous crime in America! other issues are non-issues. if moral living is abound, other issues will take care themsleves. Republican Party is not about aborting and pro-choice mentalities. you either for life or snuff life. i wholehearted support Sarah Palin as VP. you cannot serve two masters, either you hate one or love the other. there is no piety involve in this issue. it is God ordain and sanctify life. even one day the US supreme court judges who allowed roe vs wade into law will face up their Creature, not with their raise fists, but in eternal flame of fire, the place call Hell. i do hope some of those judges have come to repentance and ask Jesus as their Savior. Jesus do forgive as he spoke to the thief on the cross. you can kill the body but not the soul. i’m looking forward seeing all those beautiful aborted babies one day in Heaven. thank you Governor Palin for supporting your children at this time of need! tangshui of China on mission

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Carole O'Connell

posted September 9, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Dear Paul, thank you for putting into print what I have been thinking, the focus is off the issues and onto Sarah Palin. I think that they are using her as much as they are trying to use us.

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posted September 12, 2008 at 8:45 am

a blogger mentioned ronald reagan fact was so distorted. he must have draw his conclusion from a match box. remember the 21% interest rate and 12 to 15 percent unemployment rate during peanut farmer carter adminstration, also caused the down fall of Iran monarch. which is more evil, the presence regime of the madman in Iran or the monarch which was our friend? get your history right and get off my space! I love Sarah Palin, she will put all you liberal to shame come november election. better find another job if you know what work mean, especially those demo senators and repres in congress. a new republican will take back both houses. the red tide will cover whole america after this election. tangshui in china

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James Hays

posted September 13, 2008 at 10:37 pm

John Kennedy was a Democrat. Harry Truman was a Democrat. Even Johnson was a Democrat. I used to be a Democrat. But ever since Jimmy “Peanut Brain” Carter was President, the Democrat party has become the Marxist Party of America. Big government IS the problem. Look at the mortgage problem, the “no drilling” problem, the Social Security problem, the illegal alien problem, etc., etc., all brought on by the do-nothing Socialist Democrat Congress. America is not the America saved by the “Greatest Generation”. It has been been diminished by bleeding heart leftist nut jobs in the Democrat Party. Obomination IS a Marxist and the Anti-Christ!! John Kennedy is probably rolling over in his grave because of this absolutely inexperienced, angry, Marxist puppet of George Soros and the “Move On”, anti American crowd!

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K Kwon

posted September 16, 2008 at 8:39 am

Paul, you are so right! Let’s hope some of the Dem’s decision-makers read this. And as for the Republican defenders of Palin– Unfortunately, I’m afraid they represent the majority of Americans, which is why this country is in the shape it’s in, and why we continue to see so many morons on the Republican ticket.

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