Palin is not Obama’s biggest threat, she’s his greatest asset

According to recent polling, Sarah Palin is the only GOP front-runner who would not unseat the presi

For all of the the left leaning people who are panicking at the prospect of former half-term governor of Alaska and full-time Facebooker Sarah Palin being elected president of the United States in 2012, I have a simple message for you: relax.

Admittedly, Obama's poll numbers are not exactly stellar. One recent poll being touted by the American conservative media puts his job approval rating at 39 per cent, whereas the real number is probably closer to 45 per cent. There is, however, a small ray of hope. A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that, in Missouri at least, Palin is the one candidate Obama does not have to worry about.

Missouri was carried by John McCain in 2008 with a one per cent margin, after remaining undeclared for several days. (Interestingly, it was also the first time Missouri had voted for a losing Presidential candidate since 1956). As a result it is considered a swing state in Presidential elections. Although it appears to be leaning more towards the GOP recently, it is by no measure a forgone conclusion come election time.

The PPP poll had the sitting president trailing the former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The only Republican candidate Obama beat was Palin. Of course, this is only in one state, two years before the election and polls have never been a concrete predictor of results. Even with that in mind there are a few things that progressives need to consider.

Firstly, a Sarah Palin presidential candidacy would actually end up being a good thing. As was shown in the 2008 campaign and in the years following, the more the American public gets to know Sarah Palin, the less popular she becomes (her unfavourable ratings are now at 52 per cent, the highest they have been since she was announced as McCain's VP candidate). She does have some impassioned and very vocal supporters but those people comprise a tiny minority of the electorate. If Palin managed to win the Republican nomination in 2012 it would be a gift for Obama.

The second consideration is that, should this poll be indicative of the national opinion (and with the recent shift back towards the GOP at the 2010 midterm elections one could make that argument), there is a very real possibility that Obama will be a one-term president. Should that happen Republicans will trumpet their victory as a repudiation of liberal (or Marxist, if they're feeling particularly strident) policies in America.

This would be bad for all kinds of reasons: the principal reason being that it's frankly not true. When asked about individual issues, a large percentage of Americans are actually further left politically than most Republican politicians or European pundits will admit. The American public overwhelmingly supports openly gay people serving in the US military, more than half say that abortion is OK in certain circumstances, a large portion say that gun laws should be stricter, and the majority support stem-cell research. The Republican Party is on record as being against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", against abortion, want gun control rules to be more lax, and a lot of them oppose stem cell research full stop, never mind federal funding for it. Despite all this, the GOP appears to have the political advantage. Why?

The Republican machine does an excellent job of getting their message to the American public, and right now, that message is one of anger. The American people cannot see things getting better instantly and are starting to become disenchanted with Obama. This is a crying shame due to the fact that literally hundreds of bills are stuck in the Senate where the Republican minority has a filibuster on just about every piece of Democratic legislation.

American anger is misdirected, and the Republicans are exploiting this to great advantage. It is for this reason that anyone who wishes for a more progressive America should be concerned about a Republican president being elected in 2012. If current polling is correct it is an increasingly likely scenario – unless the GOP nominate Palin.

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Let's seize our chance of a progressive alliance in Richmond - or we'll all be losers

Labour MPs have been brave to talk about standing aside. 

Earlier this week something quite remarkable happened. Three Labour MPs, from across the party’s political spectrum, came together to urge their party to consider not fielding a candidate in the Richmond Park by-election. In the face of a powerful central party machine, it was extremely brave of them to do what was, until very recently, almost unthinkable: suggest that people vote for a party that wasn’t their own.
Just after the piece from Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis and Jonathan Reynolds was published, I headed down to the Richmond Park constituency to meet local Green members. It felt like a big moment – an opportunity to be part of something truly ground-breaking – and we had a healthy discussion about the options on the table. Rightly, the decision about whether to stand in elections is always down to local parties, and ultimately the sense from the local members present was that it would be difficult  not to field a candidate unless Labour did the same. Sadly, even as we spoke, the Labour party hierarchy was busily pouring cold water on the idea of working together to beat the Conservatives. The old politics dies hard - and it will not die unless and until all parties are prepared to balance local priorities with the bigger picture.
A pact of any kind would not simply be about some parties standing down or aside. It would be about us all, collectively, standing together and stepping forward in a united bid to be better than what is currently on offer. And it would be a chance to show that building trust now, not just banking it for the future, can cement a better deal for local residents. There could be reciprocal commitments for local elections, for example, creating further opportunities for progressive voices to come to the fore.
While we’ve been debating the merits of this progressive pact in public, the Conservatives and Ukip have, quietly, formed an alliance of their own around Zac Goldsmith. In this regressive alliance, the right is rallying around a candidate who voted to pull Britain out of Europe against the wishes of his constituency, a man who shocked many by running a divisive and nasty campaign to be mayor of London. There’s a sad irony in the fact it’s the voices of division that are proving so effective at advancing their shared goals, while proponents of co-operation cannot get off the starting line.
Leadership is as much about listening as anything else. What I heard on Wednesday was a local party that is passionate about talking to people and sharing what the Greens have to offer. They are proud members of our party for a reason – because they know we stand for something unique, and they have high hopes of winning local elections in the area.  No doubt the leaders of the other progressive parties are hearing the same.
Forming a progressive alliance would be the start of something big. At the core of any such agreement must be a commitment to electoral reform - and breaking open politics for good. No longer could parties choose to listen only to a handful of swing voters in key constituencies, to the exclusion of everyone else. Not many people enjoy talking about the voting system – for most, it’s boring – but as people increasingly clamour for more power in their hands, this could really have been a moment to seize.
Time is running out to select a genuine "unity" candidate through an open primary process. I admit that the most likely alternative - uniting behind a Liberal Democrat candidate in Richmond Park - doesn’t sit easily with me, especially after their role in the vindictive Coalition government.  But politics is about making difficult choices at the right moment, and this is one I wanted to actively explore, because the situation we’re in is just so dire. There is a difference between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. Failing to realise that plays into the hands of Theresa May more than anyone else.
And, to be frank, I'm deeply worried. Just look at one very specific, very local issue and you’ll perhaps understand where I'm coming from. It’s the state of the NHS in Brighton and Hove – it’s a system that’s been so cut up by marketisation and so woefully underfunded that it’s at breaking point. Our hospital is in special measures, six GP surgeries have shut down and private firms have been operating ambulances without a license. Just imagine what that health service will look like in ten years, with a Conservative party still in charge after beating a divided left at another general election.
And then there is Brexit. We’re hurtling down a very dangerous road – which could see us out of the EU, with closed borders and an economy in tatters. It’s my belief that a vote for a non-Brexiteer in Richmond Park would be a hammer blow to Conservatives at a time when they’re trying to remould the country in their own image after a narrow win for the Leave side in the referendum.
The Green party will fight a passionate and organised campaign in Richmond Park – I was blown away by the commitment of members, and I know they’ll be hitting the ground running this weekend. On the ballot on 1 December there will only be one party saying no to new runways, rejecting nuclear weapons and nuclear power and proposing a radical overhaul of our politics and democracy. I’ll go to the constituency to campaign because we are a fundamentally unique party – saying things that others refuse to say – but I won’t pretend that I don’t wish we could have done things differently.

I believe that moments like this don’t come along very often – but they require the will of all parties involved to realise their potential. Ultimately, until other leaders of progressive parties face the electoral facts, we are all losers, no matter who wins in Richmond Park.


Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.