Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joey from Scranton

Could Bluest Fist be gearing up for an extended bout of political blogging?? Stay tuned!

In any event, I'm back tonight to applaud the Biden VP pick. I've heard a number of pundits call this a "balancing the ticket pick" or "steadying the ticket pick". That's accurate in some obvious ways (he's 65, foreign policy experience etc) but misses completely why this pick will be so disruptive for McCain. Here are a few reasons, most of them related to demographics and the symbolism we attach to them in American political culture:

1. Biden is Catholic. I mean, an actual church going Catholic -- confident enough to explain his pro-choice record in that context. His kids went to Catholic school where his sister was, I think, the principal? (This is wrapped up with his period as a single father after his wife and daughter died tragically in a car accident. You think anyone's gonna go after his faith?) The Biden pick calls McCain's bluff on many fronts but one involves DARING him to pick Tom Ridge as his running mate. Ridge is a Catholic and also pro-choice. If McCain picks him the Evagelicals will have kittens. But if he doesn't pick him he may as well not event campaign in Pennsylvania BECAUSE...

2. Biden is from Scranton, PA. This matters for 2 reasons. First, it's a major play for PA's electoral votes -- likely to go Dem anyway but now almost surely so. Between Biden (not only from Scranton but also the Delaware Senator who shares a media market with Philly and is sometimes refered to as "Pennsylavania's third senator") Sen. Casey and Gov. Rendell that state is locked up. But there's a second, more interesting aspect to Scranton: Hillary adopted it as a cudgel to hit Obama with in the primary. Remember her endlessly repeated story about visiting Scranton as a child, how it was her home away from home, how she learned how to hunt etc? "Scranton" was the code word for "regular folks" just as "arugula" was the code word for "Obama is yuppie scum." Which brings me to...

3. Biden is working class. He grew up as an Irish Catholic in Scranton with nothing. He had a stutter. He fought kids on the playground and in the alley. And he's been a brawler ever since. There are so many important aspects to this I need to break #3 down into subsets:
3(a). The Hillary thing. It calls the bluff of all these Dems who indulged the fantasy that she was a working class hero, that SHE was "Scranton" by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Joey from Scranton!" Its a gut appeal to the Dems Obama has the most difficult time winning over: working class whites from the rust belt who are in love with their family story.
3(b). The Irish Catholic Thing. This shouldn't be underestimated. Politics in America remain deeply tribal. You think American Catholics in PA, OH, MI, NH and other swing states are going to pass up the chance to elect the FIRST IRISH CATHOLIC VICE PRESIDENT and only the second Catholic to ever be part of the White House dynamic duo? I mean, I'm a lapsed, Catholic and political leftist and I'M thinking about getting drunk, punching someone out, taking confession, attending a wake, and voting for Biden right now! And the Italians, Latinos and everyone else will find it almost as irresistable. Watch Chris Matthews and Mike Barnacle on MSNBC fall all over each other on the Catholic thing in the next few weeks and tell me I'm not right on this.
3(c). The Working Class Thing. This became much more important after McCain's "Seven Houses" gaffe. We're in stagflation, folks! You think people wanna vote for the guy who can't remember whether he has 4, 7 or 10 houses and wears $520 loafers? But you need a real contrast. Obama brings that, which is why Republicans have been desperate to cast him as some sort of prep school oddity (which is nonsense but has been strangely difficult for him to combat at times). In picking Biden, Obama was doubling down on it with a guy who can vouch for the both of them. Now wait and see if McCain picks Romney to get over the dozen house mark! As an extra bonus, if you want to start "dog-whistling" Romney's Mormon faith and McCain's messy divorce to cause havoc in the Christian Right base, you can invent the slogan: "Barack Obama: One House, One Spouse."
3(d) The Tough Guy Thing. "Biden is a Brawler." The streets of Scranton. It's easy to forget that McCain isn't actually tough. McCain is a hot head. There's a big difference. McCain is a short guy in his 70s. He let George W. Bush slap him around all over the country in 2000. He's the privileged son and grandson of an admiral who walked away from his first wife and kids to marry a mega-rich girl who has floated his old, short ass ever since. We're already hearing from longtime Washington press corp people that Biden intimidates McCain. And, yeah, I'll say it: how many hundred times is McCain going to invoke his POW experience as a testiment to his character before people start pointing out (as Bush surogates did in 2000)that McCain's captors broke him and forced him to do treasonous things? Broke him, by the way, using techniques which George W. Bush defines as legal non-torture, a definition McCain has lately acquiesced to because -- well, because McCain ain't tough. He just plays tough on TV. The guy has my sympathy for getting the shit kicked out of him for five years in the Hanoi Hilton. But I'm supposed to VOTE for him because of this? Huh?
3(e). The Growing Up with Nothing Thing. Just emphasizing 3(c) here. Barack's single mom on food stamps. Somehow Biden helps authenticate that.
3(f) The Iraq Thing. Unlike the "fortunate sons" of the Bush social set, Biden's son is off to Iraq. The angle from which to attack Dems on Iraq just got a little narrower.

All this and the guy wrote the Violence Against Women act!

Get your popcorn...


Blogger tj sondermann said...

One other thing to point out re: Biden disruptive for McCain is that he and Biden are old pals, friends even. So while McCains' surrogates will have no problem attacking Biden, it remains to be seen if the Noble McCain will stoop to such tactics against his buddy.

August 25, 2008 at 8:47 AM  

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