A Ku Indeed!

Values-Challenged Candidates

Posted in Politics by Chris on September 2, 2008

I was thinking today about the difference between the Obama and McCain VP picks (well, obvious given the last few posts!). One thing that struck me was the (at least prima facie) reason for the choices. Biden was chosen because he speaks to what is perceived as a flaw in Obama — a lack of experience. Palin was chosen because she speaks to what is perceived as a flaw in McCain — a lack of conservative values (partly, I think her being a woman plays a big role too, obviously).

If this is true, however, the logic of the choices seems strange to me, as I’ll explain below.

So let me think this through. Obama’s weakness is experience. So Biden was added to do away with that worry — Obama gets a knowledgeable guy at his side to mitigate his weakness and to contribute to his knowledge base when he makes decisions. I can buy that, and it seems reasonable to think that this, to some degree, makes Obama more palpable as a candidate.

Now McCain. First, how strongly should the analogy be taken? Is McCain values-challenged? Does he need Palin as a way to make up for his own lack of values? That seems odd, to say the least. But it’s the next part that is strange. In Obama’s case, it seems reasonable to think that he could actually make decisions strongly influenced by Biden’s council, because he lacks experience. But should we similarly believe that if McCain is not really all that conservative, that the addition of Palin will make him so? Will he now start making decisions strongly influenced by Palin’s advice? This seems not reasonable, because the guy really does have a value system already. So it will determine his choices. So Palin’s role as “advisor” (the person who “fixes” his perceived weakness) doesn’t seem to work in the same way.

With this in mind, I am curious about how people think about these tickets. I can easily see a person who felt that Obama was experience-challenged feeling better about it now because, in all likelihood, Biden at least will provide that experience and help him along. But what about the McCain voter? If a voter felt uncomfortable about him before because he was values-challenged, in what way does Palin being in the ticket make that voter feel more secure, given my suggestion above that she probably will not serve in any real way as a values-influence?

In other words, is it the case (and this can happen on either side of the aisle, by the way) that adding a “values” VP is really just window dressing in a way that adding an “experience” VP is not? If so, why would a voter feel more comfortable voting for the values-challenged candidate?


4 Responses

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  1. Amy said, on September 2, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I certainly agree that it’s easier to add experience than values. But I’m not sure the comparison is entirely fair. From what I can tell from talking to people I know, Palin makes them feel comfortable. She’s someone they can relate to in a way they can’t relate to McCain, or for that matter Obama or Biden.

    That _does_ add something the McCain candidacy. It puts someone next to McCain who understands “us.”

    If values are really the issue, which to some people they are, I doubt McCain can add them simply by surrounding himself with people who have more conservative values. I think he merely intends to prove that he shares the values, not that they’ll rub off on him.

  2. Chris said, on September 2, 2008 at 1:01 pm


    Right — I can understand the “just like us” factor. But…if by “shares the values” you mean “respects” then I still don’t get it, because they won’t rub off on him. So still, at the end of the day, you don’t get what you want (which is someone who governs the way you want them to). I’m sure that if position X was important to me, but my party put up Joe not-X as the POTUS choice, and then put up Joann X as the VPOTUS, my worries about the ticket wouldn’t diminish one bit. As it is often said, vice-presidents defer to the value systems of the president, not the other way around. In fact, it was McCain’s camp that made this point when there was speculation of him putting Lieberman (pro-choice) on the ticket. The point was: the VP defers to what I want, not the other way around, so, “don’t worry”. In like manner…

    You get the point.

  3. Jonah said, on September 2, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I think its a valid question. I’ve forwarded it on to a friend who says that he wouldn’t have voted for McCain alone but McCain/Palin has his vote.

    I’ll let you know if he responds.

  4. Adam said, on September 2, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    What makes the logic of “values osmosis” even weirder is that it seems to be pretty common knowledge now that McCain wanted Lieberman, but was told no. So if he had the running mate he really wanted, he would still have had a problem with his base. Instead, he gets his second(?) choice, who perfectly aligns with the base, and still gets his values problem cured by osmosis. His own professed first-choice of values doesn’t get the credit that his backup values get. It seems plenty consistent to me to want to vote for Palin. Ditto for McCain (though I think there is a better candidate out there!) But redeeming McCain through Palin is a little screwed up for anyone who takes character or “values” seriously.

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