On September 3rd, Republican VP candidate and current Alaska Governor Sarah Palin gave a very impressive acceptance speech. She seemed strong, bright, poised, and confident.
Her speech seemed to fire up the audience. Lots of applause. Standing ovations. And, based on interviews by the television reporters on the convention floor, Palin even seemed to win over some moderate pro-choice Republican women. It was that easy.
But that was just one speech, and it was written to strategically touch on talking points that would win points with the audience, and ignore others.
And the points they chose to ignore could make all the difference in voters' minds.
Here are just a few:
Governor Palin told us that she "stood up to the ... big oil companies." She did not tell us that she had strongly supported Big Oil's efforts to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, along with a 30-billion-dollar gas pipeline project. (She claimed that the latter was "God's will".) And she did not tell us that she had opposed listing polar bears as an endangered species because doing so would pose a "significant threat to [pipeline] development."
Governor Palin told us that Barack Obama "has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate." She did not tell us that Obama, along with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), authored S. 2566, which passed in 2007, to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. She did not tell us that Obama, along with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), authored the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, to require full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving Federal funds. And she did not tell us that, this year alone, Obama sponsored many more Senate bills than his opponent, John McCain -- 70 to 22.
Governor Palin told us that Barack Obama wants to raise taxes. She did not tell us that Obama would actually cut taxes for over 95% of American families. Those who would have to pay more taxes under an Obama administration are the richest handful of Americans who are currently enjoying Bush's tax breaks for the very wealthy -- tax breaks that Obama would stop so that the rich will have to pay their fair share just as you and I do.
Governor Palin told us that Barack Obama "wants to forfeit" a victory in Iraq. She did not explain that you cannot win an occupation (as was so astutely noted on a sign held by Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh the following night at the RNC).
Governor Palin told us, "This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer." What she is missing is the fact that the world community fared better when the U.S. did serve as its organizer. America's role in the world community changed for the worst when George W. Bush adopted his unilateral cowboy-style foreign policy. And, rather than make us safer, the Bush-McCain war policy has actually fueled an increased terrorist threat.
And while it seems obvious that McCain chose Palin as his running mate in an attempt to win over disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, Governor Palin did not mention her extremist views that are pretty much the opposite of Senator Clinton's views on women's issues. She did not tell us, for instance, that she opposes abortion even in cases or rape or incest.
Finally, while the right wing may criticize Barack Obama's former ties to Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Governor Palin did not mention the fact that her own church recently heard a sermon professing that terrorist attacks on Israel amount to divine judgment on Jews for refusing to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.
So, when all these things are considered, this election would seem like a shoo-in for the Democrats, right?
Unlike some of us, the average American does not take the time to research political issues and dig between the lines. Politics is not everyone's hobby. The average American has just enough time to absorb what they can from a few minutes each day of cable or network news, and they trust that they are sufficiently informed.
Yet, even as the right wing decries the so-called "liberal media", the mainstream press does little more than just pass along the partisan talking points.
They say that true democracy requires an informed electorate. This is a problem today, as too many voters rely on too little information, or distorted information, to make their decisions.
This is why those of us who do obsess with politics need to spend every spare minute knocking on doors, literally and figuratively, and sharing the truth. This is going to be a very close election, and so much hangs in the balance. We must do all we can to counteract the swift boaters and the disinformation machine in general.
Heaven help us if we fail.
September 9, 2008 Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org