I was stunned to wake up this morning to find that John McCain was about to name Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I heard about her (for the first time) a few weeks ago and knew she was under consideration but I never in a million years dreamed that McCain would make such a bold move. I was sure it would be Pawlenty or Romney or Ridge or Jindal or even, God help us, Huckabee. But now, in a presidential race that is already full of amazing firsts, we have the first woman on a national Republican ticket. Woo-hoo! Congratulations, Sarah! How far she’s come since her stint as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 6,715) only ten years ago. But here’s the main reason I’m so excited about this provocative choice:
McCain just guaranteed that he will lose the election.
I’m sure I’m tempting the Evil Eye with that comment. Just last night, following Obama’s dazzling speech in Denver, I was urging my ultra-liberal friends not to take it for granted that he was going to win. Smugness is never a wise decision, and I find it particularly unattractive on die-hard lefties like myself. But today I can’t help it. I truly believe McCain’s decision to put the relatively unknown Palin on the Republican ticket will ultimately be seen as the most monumental blunder in his political career.
The cynicism and condescension in this decision are mind-boggling. The idea that any Democratic supporter of Hillary Clinton’s will vote for McCain because his VP is a woman is even more offensive than the idea touted in 2004 that more women would vote for Kerry after he picked John Edwards because Edwards was so “cute.” Yuck. Oh, I’m sure there are some people, somewhere, who may be swayed by Palin’s historic place on the ticket and more power to ‘em, but the assumption by McCain and his team that Democratic women care so little about the issues is appalling to say the least. The only thing that Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have in common are a few body parts. How can the other contenders for the vice presidency not be furious with McCain for this choice? I’m sure they are but are hiding it well for the sake of party unity.
It’s not like I have anything against Sarah Palin herself (even though I vehemently disagree with many of her views). She seems like a real character and it’s hard not to admire her after hearing about her life and meteoric rise to power in Alaska. But no one with half a brain, including Palin herself, could possibly believe that John McCain thought that out of every Republican politician in this country she was the best suited person to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. There’s no question that he chose her for one reason and one reason only: to try to court disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters. Disgusting. Do they really think Democrats will rush to vote for someone who virulently opposes abortion laws, even in the case of rape and incest, who favors a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, who loves hunting and wearing furs, and who is in favor of teaching creationism in the public schools? Not bloody likely.
Nevertheless, the choice was like a massive adrenalin shot to McCain’s increasingly lifeless campaign. If he had chosen Pawlenty or Romney, I probably would have read a brief article about the announcement online and then gone on with my day. But the rumors about Palin and the subsequent confirmation had me glued to CNN for hours.
I believe Republicans of all stripes are wringing their hands tonight over McCain’s folly. I feel sorry for Palin for the scrutiny and negative press she is sure to get. Already she’s being judged for not taking a maternity leave and for “abandoning” her 4-month-old baby who has Down’s Syndrome in favor of the campaign. Really not fair. On the other hand, seeing how ambitious she is, such massive attention will surely help her in the end. I wish Sarah Palin well. And I look forward to the day when strong Republican women make it to the ticket because of their qualifications, not because of their gender.
Update two weeks later: Eek, talk about being a smug liberal, I couldn't have been more wrong about Palin's ability to grab hold of the Republican base. My mistake was believing that McCain chose her to appeal to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. Maybe that was a hoped-for side effect, but the real prize was winning back the support of the Religious Right, and he's certainly done that in spades thanks to Palin. The ultimate result of this choice remains to be seen but this post is stunning in its incorrect assessments of McCain's tactics.