Amidst the threat of natural disasters was the emergence of Governor Sarah Palin as Senator John McCain's running mate in the 2008 Presidential election. Much has already been said about her, and here are some additional thoughts.
Gov. Palin as a Novelty
Some have decried that Gov. Palin was chosen to counter Senator Obama's bid as our first African-American president with our first female vice-president. While this becomes a historical footnote, and while it has stirred attention (and much media attention), this is irrelevant. Though, if we were to thumb through our history books, we would see that when white males were forced to award suffrage rights, they gave the nod to non-white males before they gave it to females of any gender.
Gov. Palin as a Female Vote-Stealer
"They picked her to get the 'Hillary' vote" has been bandied about as a theory for Gov. Palin's selection. This would only have worked among low information voters (i.e., voters who know names and faces, and let a few soundbites on TV tell them all they care to know about the candidate). Gov. Palin's social positions, though, could not be farther from Senator Clinton's. Because of this, anyone whose vote was ever going to be cast based on any real thought at all will never allow Gov. Palin's gender sway them from candidates that reflect their ideology. So, again, the notion that Gov. Palin will attract "the 'Hillary' vote" is absurd.
Gov. Palin as SNL Fodder
O, Tina, where art thou?
Gov. Palin as Small Fry
Bill Maher recently cried foul that Gov. Palin's "small town values" and experience were "not good enough" to be a heartbeat away from the White House. The most common comparison has been between Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama and this, too, is off the mark. Those who favor Sen. Obama seem to argue that his Chicago background and recent-years national exposure has given him better experience to adapt well to the presidency. Certainly, another veep choice like Rudolph Giuliani (former mayor of New York City) might have had experience with larger populations and more media presence, but does that mean that Gov. Palin's lower-population background is "not good enough?" There are entire states whose population is smaller than Chicago, and in those states, there are generally few large population centers. By saying that Gov. Palin's small town experience is insufficient for the vice presidency, Maher has also said that those small town citizens's concerns are not important, that their wants and needs are also inferior to that of their big city brethren.
Gov. Palin as the GOP Sparkplug
Watching the 2008 GOP Convention did nothing to dispell the stereotype that Republicans are all old, rich, white people. Whenever network camera crews could find anyone under the age of fifty, they were shown on TV; anyone under thirty was interviewed. Gov. Palin's nomination has to be encouraging to a political party where the fear exists that the ideology will die with most of the people in the convention hall (in, say, ten years). Older Republicans must be reassured that their message has resonated with younger Americans, and Young Republicans must be reassured that they are not the only ones drawn to the old folks and their doctrine. Besides, if there's one thing that the Republicans have become not only good at, but obsessed with, it's a political fight. They have certainly circled the wagons around Gov. Palin, and they have done so with far more enthusiasm than they displayed for any of this year's presidential candidates. Had she had the notion to seek it, Gov. Palin might well have carried the GOP's presidential nomination.
Gov. Palin as a Sex Symbol
Without doubt, Gov. Palin's image will be plastered on the dorm room walls of economics majors across the country. Her ideology harkens back to the Reagan 80s, so she should be comfortable being called a "sexy grandma."
Gov. Palin: From Oprah to Jerry Springer
Consider the following hypothetical taglines:
"A mother of five children, one of whom has Down's Syndrome, pursues a political career. Her dedication propelled her into an election showdown with an incumbent governor...and she won. Hear her remarkable story, next on Oprah."
"Tomorrow, meet a woman who retaliated against her ex-brother-in-law by having him fired and persecuted. All this while finding out that, at 44 years old, her 17 year old, unwed daughter was going to make her a grandmother! She'll be here, along with her knocked-up daughter and her baby daddy, on The Jerry Springer Show."
Amazing that one person's biography lends itself so easily to both contexts, n'est ce pas?
Gov. Palin in 21st Century America
Gov. Palin favors drilling for oil and espouses much of the divisive rhetoric as the evangelical wing of her party on social issues. Her message will certainly resonate with small town voters, where churches outnumber restaurants and only winter coats come out of the closet. Her pro-drilling ambitions will not only endear her to Big Oil and her home state of Alaska (which has often favored the prospective prosperity that drilling might bring it), but will also make her seem like a candidate who will take the "obvious" solution for our nation's problems rather than making things harder than they need to be. Oh, Gov. Palin. You're young, you're enthusiastic, you excite a crowd. Why must you live in our past, rather than in our present?