Well, some cooler weather has blown into the Austin area overnight, and there's undoubtedly a fall-ish feel in the air today. I'm sure it will heat up and then cool down again several times before fall truly sets in, but nonethless, it's nice to get a reprieve from the heat.
I haven't blogged about McCain and Palin for awhile, but I did find a couple of interesting articles/op ed pieces about Palin in Time magazine over the last couple of days. Michael Kinsley had a piece which did a good job of debunking the myth that Sarah Palin is a true fiscal conservative or that she has shown a preference for anything other than taking as much federal tax money as she could get for Alaska, despite the fact that Alaska already has its own extremely high state revenue stream as a result of taxes placed on the oil drilled from Alaskan soil (of the 50 states, Alaska ranks number one in taxes per resident and number one in spending per resident, and its spending per resident is more than twice the national average). Palin goes on and on about saving us from dependence on foreign oil, but meanwhile, Alaskans tax the bejeezus out of oil that they sell to people in the lower 48 states, with Alaskan residents each getting a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Alaska ranks eighteenth in terms of the amount taxes that its citizens have to pay each year (averaging $5,434), but Alaska ranks 1st in terms of the the amount of federal funding that it receives per resident ($13, 950). In addition, although the McCain camp has ridiculed Obama for supporting a windfall profits tax on oil companies who are making record profits (a program designed to help alleviate some of the pain suffered by people who are paying exorbitant prices for gasoline that's being sold by companies which are receiving federal subsidies), Palin herself has supported a version of a windfall profits tax in order to divert more money into the Alaskan state coffers (apparently windfall profits taxes are ok when they support Alaskans, but not so good when they support the rest of us).
Anyway, all of this is just to say that it's fairly disingenuous for Palin to paint herself as a reformer who turns down federal tax dollars and constantly strives for smaller government. Palin has no problem at all turning down federal money when it supports her own constituents (and nothing helps to raise a governor's favorability ratings like handing out money to her constituents).
Another Time article that I read was by Joe Klein, and it was a bit more of an opinion/touchy feely type of article, but I think it still made some interesting (although more arguable) observations. Klein's piece was called Sarah Palin's Myth of America, and it dealt with the idea that Sarah Palin serves as a sort of symbol for much of conservative America. They see her as a white, middle class, Christian, small town working mom with children to raise and a loving husband by her side. Conservatives see her as a symbol of what America is all about, and they relate to her because she's from a small town full of the hard working people who drive our economy, help fight our wars, and who are unfailingly patriotic at all times.
But as Klein points out- the kind of America that Palin represents is mostly a creation of fantasy and nostalgia. America today is more racially diverse than ever, with whites moving closer and closer to being a minority population with each passing decade, and the hard-working people who fight our wars and drive our economy today coming not from the ranks of small town farmers or shopkeepers but from a population of suburbanites and city dwellers who often work for big corporations. More and more families involve single parent homes, and although religion continues to play a major role in American life, it often continues to do so in constantly-evolving and nontraditional ways- through practices that would seem quite unfamiliar to the Pentecostal practitioners of the church that Palin grew up in.
Anyway, conservatives see Palin as a symbol of nostalgic, small town America, but that particular America is more myth than fact. (I also kind of find something strange about people wanting to vote for a candidate just because they think a candidate is "just like me". Personally, if I run into someone who's "just like me", I might think that qualifies that person to be a drinking buddy, but probably not to be the most powerful leader in the free world. For that sort of thing I'm usually looking for someone who's smarter than me, with more education, experience, and a greater understanding of foreign and domestic affairs than I have, and most definitely with a greater understanding of the inner workings of government).
And now for my comment most likely to be described as "Steanso going out on a limb". Just going to make a bit of a wild-eyed prediction here, but bear with me: To be honest, even if the Republicans beat the Democrats in this election, I think that their days are numbered, at least in their current form (meaning, even if Obama loses this particular election, I think his candidacy signals the beginning of the end of some old-school political thought). As the population and the demographics of America continue to change, I just think that Republicanism in its current version will be unsustainable. As things stand, the Republicans have been staying viable because so many lower income and minority citizens don't vote (and, I suspect, also because of the population bulge surrounding the baby boomers- there are a disproportionate number of older people voting right now compared to the younger generation, but that's at least in some part because there's just a big, fat population group in that age range. Older people don't like change. They go for this whole American nostalgia thing that the Republicans have been pushing). But there's an ongoing, substantial rise in the minority population in this country, and as the income gap continues to grow (and more and more of our jobs continue to be outsourced), there will be more and more people who get tired of a government that is run with an eye toward benefitting the wealthiest members of our society. Eventually, unless the Republicans repackage themselves in a major way (which will be possible- fiscal conservativism always will have its place), they're just going to be overwhelmed. Nostalgia for a 1950's-style past just can't compete with the inevitablity of a much more diverse future (and I'm talking race, religion, sexual orientation, and a myriad combination of different lifestyles and family groups). We've already seen the Republicans shifting their positions on some issues (like global warming and the environment, the advisability of cutting off diplomacy with hostile nations, etc.). They're going to have to make similar adjustments in other areas in order stay viable. I think that if the Republicans survive, their party in 30 years is going to be almost unrecognizable in comparison with the Republican party of today (like I said, there will still be a place for fiscal conservativism, but some of their other policy points will probably need to change - they won't be able to just survive as the party of white, affluent, religious conservatives) .
Okay, that was some serious babbling. I'm not even sure I was even making sense there at the end, but it felt ok while I was writing it. Oh well.