Was Sarah Palin Really the Right Choice for Vice-president?

Surprising many a political prognosticator, John McCain has announced that his running mate will be 44-year-old Sarah Palin, Alaska's first female governor.  Honestly, I can't say I'm surprised, as I told someone just a week ago that she could be the choice.  The question is, is she a good choice?

It's obvious why McCain chose Palin.  He has garnered an inordinate amount of support from women voters, and it is felt that her presence will solidify and perhaps even increase that support.  She also is the yin to his yang.  He is the establishment candidate -- the old white guy -- while she is the Republican Obama, the "face of the future" (I'm not so sure how long our future will be).  He is 72, she is 44; he is a Washington insider, she has never been there; his claim to fame is experience, hers is freshness.  She also hails from a big oil-producing state, the home of ANWR.  Thus, who better to preach the message "Drill here, drill now"?  After all, when Palin says "here," it really is where she lives.  On top of all this, she is regarded to be that most oxymoronic of breeds, an honest politician, a reputation won with a sterling record as a crusader against corruption.

Yet I have to wonder about the wisdom of this decision.  First, I get the feeling that, with all that has been made of McCain's age, many voters are looking for a vice-presidential candidate who is at least as ready to take the helm as McCain himself.  Palin, however, has no more "experience" than Barack Obama, and she has less "education."  Now, I have those two words in quotation marks because I know such factors to be little more than superficial measures.  After all, what does a given politician usually have experience in?  Lying to get elected, fleecing the people through taxation and enacting intrusive laws and regulations?  As for education, as G.K. Chesterton said, the most important variety is received at your mother's knee.  Wisdom and a sound grasp of governance are what matter, and those qualities cannot be imparted by a left-wing propaganda mill.

But that is the ultimate reality, and, in election seasons, political reality dictates that image trumps all.  People are influenced by the superficial, and experience has been the hammer used against Obama all throughout the campaign, by both Hillary Clinton in the primaries and the Republicans since then.  It has been McCain's strength, and someone such as Mitt Romney would only have augmented it.  Can the same be said about Palin?  Moreover, do the qualities she brings to the table override this defect?

Then we come to the matter of women.  I'm not so sure that Palin will be able to help deliver them (not to mention disaffected male Clinton voters) to the ticket.  These women did glom onto Clinton, as she captured their very questionable imaginations and represented their hopes.  Yet the Alaskan governor is not the New York senator.  Oh, don't misunderstand me, I much prefer Palin, but remember, again, what will carry the day here isn't the ultimate reality, but political reality.  And, quite frankly, women don't always like other women; in fact, they're famous for sometimes hating them.  So will the fairer sex fall in behind Palin?  I'm not so sure.

At the end of the day, I have to wonder if the McCain campaign was snookered by political correctness and thought themselves out of a more obvious, and perhaps more prudent, decision.  Sure, the fear might have been that choosing someone like, let's say, Romney, would have made the ticket too white, too male, too old, and too Establishmentarian.  But sometimes you just "have to dance with the girl you brung"; sometimes you have to play to your strengths and understand that while you may be a one-trick pony, you can play that trick better than anyone.

Maybe, just perhaps, in these times of war, global instability and economic unease, an establishment thoroughbred is just the horse everyone would have bet on. 

Contact Selwyn Duke
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