Has Sarah Palin Motivated the Very Voters That Obama Needs to Win?
By Don Hazen, AlterNet. Posted September 12, 2008.
By ignoring the needs of single women, Palin may have lit a fire under the country's biggest voting bloc -- one with the power to swing the election. Sarah Palin's coming-out speech at the Republican convention was remarkable for several reasons. First, it was watched by an astounding 37 million people. That's more than the Oscars and the World Series, though still a million less than those who watched Barack Obama's historic Mile High Stadium speech.
The Palin speech was shocking for its aggressive attacks against Obama, and it was full of condescending misrepresentations of Obama and his record. Palin used a lot of what Rachel Maddow has taken to calling lies on her new MSNBC show (joining a chorus of journalists who are trying to shame the corporate media into acknowledging mendacity when they know it to be present).
But a third and perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Palin speech was who and what she left out of her picture of Alaskan adventure and small-town values. Palin never mentioned health care, women's economic issues like equal pay, or showed any empathy for the economic plight of millions who have done very poorly in George Bush's America -- particularly unmarried women, who, by virtue of their single status, tend to fare the worst in economic downturns.
At 26 percent of the voting-age population, single women are also the biggest single eligible voter demographic. And according to a survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, they are the most dependably progressive voters in the electorate. In the last two elections, unmarried women supported Democrats with 62 percent of their vote in 2004 and 65 percent in 2006.
With her speech, or rather with what was missing from it, Palin drew attention to the biggest fault line in the election: the huge chasm between mostly white, married women, and the less white, overall less affluent, but far more progressive unmarried women.
The dirty little secret in this election is that the gender gap -- which may be as high as 10 percent for Obama -- is dwarfed by the marriage gap. In a recent tracking survey by Gallup in mid-August, Obama led 49 percent to 39 percent among women, but trailed 49 percent to 40 percent among married women. Meanwhile, among unmarried women, Obama trounced McCain by 57 percent to 30 percent.
It is unlikely that the Palin nomination will change the marriage gap dynamics. In fact, it might exacerbate them further. But the bigger challenge is this: Single women, for a variety of commonsense reasons, do not vote at the same rate as married women, who frequently vote the same as their husbands. In order for progressives to gain influence and for Obama to win, the large unengaged voting bloc of single women will need to be registered and mobilized immediately. And the primary way to reach them is by talking about "kitchen table" issues, not cultural issues and "family values" that Republicans use to frame their messages.
Who Does Palin Think She Is?
Many people watching the Palin speech must have wondered: "Who the hell does she think she is?" After all, Obama has spent a grueling year meeting and speaking to many thousands of Americans across the country, raising hundreds of millins of dollars, winning a majority of the primaries and garnering more than 17 million votes via an incredibly organized and effective primary campaign, not to mention his sterling nomination speech in front of 80,000 delirious supporters in Denver. And Sarah Palin, what had she done? For 20 months she was governor of a state with a population of about 70,000 less than her "favorite city," San Francisco. She showed up when John McCain beckoned her to St. Paul, bringing her moose jokes and small-town hockey mom credentials. Her task: to stir up the pots of race, class, gender, culture and resentment in America.
By Bonnie Erbe