I was feeling really good about this presidential election until last week. Back in the olden days of late August, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Americans would do the right, practical, courageous, intelligent, inspiring, obvious thing, and vote for Obama, and he would be president, and all would be right with the world. L and I woke up early in a hotel in Singapore to watch his acceptance speech at the convention, and were high-fiving each other in our fluffy hotel bathrobes as we cheered this small culmination of the American dream.
However, wily old John McCain had a trick up his sleeve. Initially his selection of Sarah Palin as VP was baffling: not only was she blatantly and irredeemably inexperienced, but she had all these issues with ethics investigators and state troopers-in-law and her own inconveniently pregnant children. It seemed like another Harriet Miers debacle, and I expected a similar result: she would last maybe a week, and then we'd have a much more appropriate candidate, like the buffoonish Mitt Romney.
Boy, was I wrong. Now I'm sort of terrified of Sarah Palin, and not just because she can kill a moose with her teeth. In one fell swoop, she revitalized an entire political party, turned the entire campaign on its ear, and stole the momentum of the Obama campaign, Sarah Barracuda-style.
(Incidentally, there were some moments of sublime ugliness at that RNC convention: thousands of people chanting "drill, baby, drill"; the mockery and derision of community organizers by people who have never needed them to secure their basic rights; and Mitt Romney's blithely incoherent speech, summing up the intellectual acrobatics required to make any kind of sense of the Republican message: "We need change all right -- change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington -- throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain!" Obviously.)
If you boil it down, the reason I am so exasperated about the Palin-McCain movement is that is has proven to be extremely effective and extremely powerful. Obama has been laying low for a while now, and it seems like he's ceding the floor to the Republicans, letting them control the narrative. McCain's campaign manager has said that "this election is not about the issues," but rather "a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." Obama needs to bring it back to the issues. He needs to come up with a new explanation for why the hockey mom can deliver neither the change nor the experience that we need. He needs to wake up before McCain walks away with an election that was Obama's to lose. That's why I'm feeling nervous these days, because I have no idea how to do that.