"Hockey Moms" were out in force for Sarah Palin last night...at least that's the impression the Republicans wanted you to have.
Last night, I went to the Republican National Convention mainly to see how it differed from festivities in Denver, and boy was it different. Probably one of the most notable things was the Republican use of "handmade" signs. You couldn't enter the Xcel Center with a handmade sign, but that's ok...when you got inside and got to a seat, there were handmade signs waiting for you. Interestingly, on either side of the arena, the signs were identical. As festivities began, I noticed the presence of "Hockey Moms for Palin" signs scattered in two strategic spots in the convention hall. They were placed only in the line of sight of television cameras. I'm sure it was only a coincidence that when Sarah Palin mentioned she was a hockey mom, those with the signs "went crazy," thereby opening the opportunity for Palin to make a little joke:
"Do you know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a Pit Bull? Lipstick."
Do they really need to do this? Do the Republicans really lack the grassroots support that makes such political theater necessary? Perhaps they do...one of the most striking distinctions between St. Paul and Denver is how much the Republican Convention looks nothing like America. It's white. It's male. In Denver, the big tent of the Democratic Party was out in force. It looked and felt diverse.
From a press standpoint, the placement of the "handmade" signs was smart, especially when that's all you've really got. It makes America think the support by moms for Sarah Palin is simply unstoppable. And given that everyone has a mom, they're hoping this will speak to a broad audience. They want to send a message that five days ago, Hockey Moms across America heard about Sarah Palin's nomination and immediately booked their ticket for St. Paul. But when you sit in the hall, you realize that's clearly not the case.
Being someone who didn't understand what apparently is a typical republican trick of placing handmade signs at rallies, I thought the one sitting in my seat meant someone else was sitting there. The woman sitting next to me said that wasn't the case. I moved the sign, and when the gentleman next to me started waving around the "Moms for Cindy" sign in front of him, I asked him if he knew where it came from. He shrugged. He didn't care. He most certainly wasn't a mom, but that wasn't really important. What's more important is to give the impression that women all over America are supporting this ticket. It was absolutely frightening to see so many people accept the reality of these signs the way my seatmate did. It showed me that the individual choice and identity the Republicans preach is actually secondary to the need to master political theater. It showed me that individual investment in the political process is meaningless in the Republican party. Image matters, policy doesn't.
At the end of the day, it's an act of desperation, and frankly, insulting. There wasn't a "Step-mom's for Cindy" sign sitting anywhere around, a sign that perhaps would have appealed to me...is that because we don't want to remind voters that families are broken...including the McCain family? Are Hockey Moms more American than Step-moms? That's what it felt like. And what's with the classifications of motherhood anyway?
This speaks volumes about the lack of support this ticket is receiving outside of St. Paul. A polling firm did a focus group of independent women voters last night during Palin's speech, and early reports are that they aren't convinced. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, in coordination with Women's Voices Women Vote found that: "After viewing the acceptance speech of the first female vice presidential candidate for the Republican party, there was no positive electoral movement toward the Republican ticket among either married or unmarried women in these groups...among these women, it did not fundamentally change the character of the race. "
Perhaps they need more signs, but my guess is that hearing some serious policy proposals from the candidate might work better, because at this point, the only thing we've seen is hackery and political theater.