The 1980s, unlike the 1960s, were a time when it was very hard to be a community organizer since national and local power structures were treating poor communities that way they treat stray cats and dogs, to be neglected until they make trouble and locked up and removed from public view when they do.
If Barack Obama had become a stock broker, or a bank salesman for a savings and loan bank, or a shopping mall real estate developer, or had gone to work for John McCain's father-in-law in the beer distribution business, he would have been at home at this Republican convention (if one ignores the fact that he is African-American, and even the tiny number of African-American delegates to this convention didn't quite feel at home in a party which has written them off, even as tokens).
Republicans don't like Community Organizers and you could see it on their faces. They don't like environmentalists. They sneer and cheer when their leaders tell them that journalists, teachers, people in the not so highly paid professions are "elitists" and corporate leaders, bankers, billionaires are representatives of "ordinary folks." They are against lobbyists even though the great majority of lobbyists work for the firms and interests that bankroll their party.
They are, as was noted nearly 100 years ago by progressives (some of whom at the time were Republicans) that they cravenly serve and protect the "vested interest," the large corporations, banks, great financial syndicates represented at the time most of all by Morgan and Rockefeller, and denounce the "special interests, labor unions, reformers fighting for workmen's compensation, housing reform laws, women's suffrage, the abolition of child labor, as seeking special privileges against the interests of the American people.
The absurdity of the convention does not make the McCain-Palin ticket less dangerous. Palin's speech was as I watched it an attempt more than McCain's to recreate Ronald Reagan, who was expert at using Hollywood movie myths to advance his interests. Palin was the voice of small town America (like the old Frank Capra movies, whose critics called them "Capracorn" although they were often brilliant films).
That the U.S. is an urban-suburban country, that the buik of the industrial labor and real wealth production of the country has beenin urban-suburban regions for at least 120 years didn't matter to Palin. Palin also pointed to her husband, a "proud member of the United Steel Workers Union," and sportsman. Maybe Palin should visit Cleveland or Pittsburgh and see what has happened to the Steel Workers and Steel Industry since Ronald Reagan, who liked to say that he was the only president who ever led a union(the Screen Actors Guild) became president. Also, Alaska has been a producer of raw materials, a state separated from the rest of the country where all sorts of goods that Americans take for granted have to be imported.
Meanwhile, in what old fashioned conservatives would consider both tasteless and shameless, Palin's baby was being held for the cameras and her children were on camera as she continued her speech, trying to set a de-industrialized Scranton against San Francisco( which in rightwing Republican parlance means liberal homosexual) denouncing the "Washington(media) elite" for daring to suggest that her qualifications to be president of the U.S. were suspect(a simple "Hockey mom" who happens to be a telegenic former TV sportscaster). And the delegates ate it up.
If anything, McCain's speech was worse, far worse. McCain played the absurd role of good cop, trying to separate himself from the worst of the Bush administration, talking about "reforming" the "broken" federal government. That the Republican platform was a testament to the national party's domination by the extreme right made McCain's speech as trustworthy as Groucho Marx comment in the classic comedy, Horse Feathers to an outraged husband who caught him in his wife's bedroom: "who are you going to believe. Me or your own eyes." The Republicans have nominated a women, a very rightwing woman for the Vice Presidency and produced a party platform which the press reports was heavily and directly influenced by Phylis Schafly, Veteran far right activist and leader in the 1970s of the anti -Equal Rights Amendment campaign, whose victory was perhaps the most important political defeat for the Women's Rights movement in the second half of the twentieth century. McCain's and Palin's attacks on "lobbyists" is perhaps the greatest con game of all, since the number of Washington lobbyists, the overwhelming majority of whom represent corporate and business allied interest, grew exponentially from the 1980s on after the Reaganite "de-regulation"(deregulation turns government into, to paraphrase the great Wisconsin progressive, Robert La Follette over a century ago, into a "trading post" by freeing corporations and their lobbyists to use government to get more and more for themselves at the expense of the people).
McCain and Palin are attempting to craft a campaign in which they both attack Obama and at the same time "run" against aspects of the Bush administration, a little bit like Ronald Reagan running in 1984 as the candidate of "recovery" from the biggest recession of the postwar era, a recession his administration created From this moment to election day, they must be fought.