By Bruce Walker
The selection of Sarah Palin works, on many levels and in many ways. McCain knew what he was doing when he picked her. Consider all the ways in which Palin helps the Republican ticket.
Women voters know not only that the election of McCain likely will lead to the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee in 2012 or 2016, but the election of
McCain-Palin may well mean that the nominee of both major political parties in 2012 will be a woman: Palin, if McCain decides not to seek another term, and Hillary, who would be the presumptive favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2012 if Obama loses in 2008.
In other words, women voters who vote in this election know that they can probably ensure that the next president is a woman, if McCain is elected. That knowledge will pull wavering women away from Obama-Biden and to McCain-Palin.
Sarah may do more than any person in modern history to close the gender gap, not only for Republicans but for conservatives. Unlike Hillary, who rode into Washington on the back of her husband, Sarah Palin created her own career. Unlike Hillary, who dwells within a small family focused on politics, Sarah has a big family and focuses on life. As a conservative, Sarah Palin sees life as more than politics, election campaigns and litigation. Her husband has a real job in the real economy. Sarah is athletic, animated, alive. Her family seems very real to us. She seems very real to us.
Sarah Palin is pro-life, which solidifies McCain’s base with conservative voters, but she is pro-life with a vital twist: She has walked the walk. Women who favor the right to abortion love to point out that the male political leaders who want to limit abortion do not know what it is like to give birth, to care for an infant, or to endure the heartache of a child born with serious illnesses. Sarah knows all those things at a very personal level. When Sarah gave birth to Trig, her son with Down Syndrome, she walked the walk in a way that few people ever have had to do on the abortion question. He will grow up in a warm, loving family and his mother can tell the world, with perfect sincerity, that all human life has great worth.
She walks the walk on Iraq as well. Track joined the Army. He is going to Iraq. Sarah and Todd are laying their most precious possession, the life of their child, in harm’s way for the sake of freedom. Sarah Palin, like John McCain, can tell the American people that they know precisely what sort of sacrifices we all must be willing to make if America is to be safe and free. The contrast between McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden on the personal sacrifices made for America is profound.
The criticism of her inexperience is already brewing, but Sarah can say that she has more executive experience than Obama and Biden combined. Moreover, she has been a gutsy chief executive of Alaska, which means that she has shown an ability to resist the blandishments of lobbyists which neither Obama nor Biden have demonstrated. McCain and Palin really do represent a resistance to pork exceptional in a presidential ticket.
As gas prices becomes an increasingly pressing personal issue for huge numbers of Americans, and as more and more Americans support drilling for oil as a logical way to bring down gas prices, Palin brings a strong and persuasive perspective on ANWR drilling. She loves the outdoors. Alaska is her home state, the place where her family lives. When Sarah says, as she doubtless will, that no outsider can care more about preserving the beauty of Alaska than she does, it will be hard to contradict that. So when she then says that drilling in ANWR will not damage the loveliness of that Alaskan natural wonder which she loves, then Sarah will be believed by millions of otherwise ambivalent voters. Sarah, moreover, will be able to make a very cogent intellectual argument for drilling. She knows more about this issue than Obama, Biden or even McCain. And it is an issue that becomes more important to Americans by the day.
Sarah Palin on the ticket also creates some serious problems for Democrats in planning their campaign about the Republican ticket. How, for example, will a reflexively arrogant man like Joe Biden act toward Sarah Palin in the Vice Presidential Debate? This is the same man who talked about Obama as well spoken, for a black man. How careful will Biden be when he debates Palin? The debate will be a virtual minefield for someone as callous as Senator Biden. One slip, one impolitic remark, could shift millions of votes.
Governor Palin also lives in a frontier state, a land about as far away from Washington as you can be and still hold political office in our republic. This is a theme that can resonate with voters. Delaware is right next to Washington: Biden commutes home after work. Chicago, the Daley Machine, does not seem to be much of an improvement. But Palin, and for that matter, McCain, come from another part of America completely. Alaska and Arizona are very distant from the capital whose machinations must be curbed. The image of two people from America’s frontier cleaning up our nation’s capital is potent.
The biggest catch, though, is Palin herself. She seems utterly genuine. Her life story sounds familiar and comforting. Her words come from her heart. Her ideas come from a mind not trapped in Beltway Newspeak. We want change? She is change. More than just change, though, Sarah Palin represents change for the better. She personifies all the goodness in America which we seem to have lost. Her election will be a shot across the bow of every entrenched politician in the federal government. As a nominee, Sarah works.
illustration by Brett Noel