Palin - The Florida Strategy

09/30/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The McCain camp argues that the (presumptive) nomination of Sarah Palin is a great step forward for women. In response to concerns that Palin lacks experience, they declare that the president is the one who makes all the decisions. In other words, McCain's arguments in favor of Sarah Palin break down into two propositions:

1) There will be a woman in the White House, and
2) She won't make any decisions.

Given that, choosing Palin's snarky nickname is easy: "Trophy."

The idea that women -- and in particular Hillary supporters -- will vote for McCain solely because of the chromosomal make-up of his running mate has already started to garner the derision that it deserves. On the other hand, over on Dahlia Lithwick seemed to buy the logic yesterday (her post has disappeared since then), so maybe there are some voters for whom the simple "here's your chance to vote for a woman" strategy works.

There may be a more subtle and infinitely more insidious interpretation of the strategy at work here, however. It is possible that there are some voters who are uncomfortable voting for Obama because of his race and would find that voting for a ticket with a woman on it assuages their conscience. It's a complicated set of attitudes: we're talking about people progressive enough to want to vote for the Democrat in the first place, prejudiced enough that the race of the Democratic candidate alters their decision, liberal enough that voting for a woman seems like a Good Thing, yet conservative enough on issues that they consider most salient that they can contemplate voting for McCain. It's hard to imagine that there are enough voters who fit this profile to matter nationally, but it is quite possible that there are local concentrations of voters who fit this description in key areas. Say, older Jewish voters and anti-Castro Cubans in Florida. Evangelicals in Ohio and Jews and Cubans in Florida is a powerful pick-up. The cynicism of the strategy is breathtaking, but that does not necessarily mean that it will not work.