Don't write off Palin as VP
Monday, 01 September 2008

Maybe the governor of Alaska will be the first to break the glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton only cracked?

Jeremy Lott

In one of Barack Obama's biggest applause lines in Denver on Thursday, he said John McCain had voted with George Bush "90% of the time" and warned, "I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10% chance on change."

Now McCain has made his vice presidential pick, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, it ensures with something approaching 100% certitude that America is about to get one kind of change that Democrats have be pushing for years now.
When George Bush leaves the White House, America will have its first black president or its first female vice president, and - given McCain's advanced age and Palin's youth and vigour - possibly its first female president as well. Diversity indeed.
At their public announcement in Ohio, the Republicans played the gender card for all it was worth. McCain said that he was "especially proud" to be announcing this decision during the week that "we celebrate the anniversary of women's suffrage."
Palin, for her part, noted that the announcement came "88 years almost to the day after the women of America first earned the right to vote." She braved boos from this mostly Republican audience by praising Hillary Clinton's "determination and grace".
The Alaska governor continued: "It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of the America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
What does Palin bring to the ticket?
Youth: She's two years younger than Barack Obama and about a thousand years younger than McCain.
A woman's touch: The McCain campaign believes she can help peel off disaffected, middle-aged women who supported Clinton in the primaries.
Beauty: Late, Late Show host Craig Ferguson said that she gives off a "naughty librarian vibe" and more than a few male voters (of all ages) may appreciate that.
Pro-lifery: Palin is a member of Feminists for Life and just this year gave birth to a boy with Down Syndrome. Try arguing with that one, Joe Biden.
Biography: She cleverly but not inaccurately calls herself a "hockey mom" of five whose involvement in the PTA drew her into politics.
Reformist cred: McCain and company railed against the "bridges to nowhere" that Alaska's ethics-challenged delegation had secured funding for. It was governor Palin who made sure money for the bridges was spent on other, less objectionable projects. She ran for mayor of Wasilla on the promise to lower her own salary once in office - and did so.
Oil: Palin is very pro-drilling in the ANWR oil reserve and at the same time has a history of tangling with Big Oil as ethics commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and then as governor, giving her more credibility to make the case. That hit John McCain's sweet spot.
There is, of course, a lot that Palin doesn't bring to the ticket. Her state is not likely to give its whopping three Electoral College votes to Democrats. She is fairly green, currently in the middle of serving her first term as governor. She has no experience in national politics or foreign policy.
McCain picked her for tokenism and for a more interesting reason. Obama seems to believe that "change" simply means more government coupled with an increasing willingness of citizens to shoulder more responsibilities - we should pay more, work harder, and be happy about this. Thus McCain can't ever really be an agent of change.
But there are duelling versions of reform. Obama wants to assign government a much larger role as "our brother's keeper." McCain now claims to represent a more centre-right reformist tradition.
The Republican is not anti-government but he is skeptical that more government is part of the answer to all of life's problems, and he's expressed a willingness to rethink some of his government's current commitments (though not, alas, in Iraq). He's picked the little-known Alaska governor to send the message that he means it.

Jeremy Lott is a contributing editor to Books & Culture and the author of In Defense of Hypocrisy. His work has appeared in the American Spectator, the American Prospect, the American, and USA Today.

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