In less than a week, this election business will be good and done (or at least it should be), and when it is, John McCain will forever be remembered as either the candidate that put Sarah Palin in the White House or the candidate who lost trying to put Sarah Palin in the White House.
I’m not a fan of Sarah Palin, and it’s not because I’m a sexist or a political elitist. My disdain for Palin transcends superficial annoyances (although I’m not particularly impressed with her $150,000 wardrobe). Part of it has to do with her political agenda and biography, obscured by inconsistencies in her issue stances. And a lot of it has to do with her ostensible inexperience on any national political scene. But the greatest reason lies within her candidacy itself, which is nothing more than a political gambit and a gimmicky ploy.
The McCain camp will argue that Palin is a qualified, family-oriented GOP leader who embodies the Maverick spirit of his Straight-Talk Express. Palin is a small-town American from small-town America, who embodies the values and spirit of the frontier. She’s an unabashed Washington neophyte who will help McCain rid Congress of pork and corruption and any other necessary housecleaning form the last administration. Simply put, Palin is the Annie Oakley McCain needed for his Butch Cassidy campaign, renegades against the Bush status quo. Never mind that with all the slander, mudslinging, and hyperbole spewing out of the McCain camp, his self-label of political maverick has become sorely perverted; McCain’s political reputation is now forever tarnished because of his shallow choice of running mate. The Palin candidacy solidifies what we have all suspected: McCain has become everything he once condemned—a political sycophant who compromises his values and caters to the Republican Machine.
Considering the potential GOP field for Vice-President that McCain had to choose from, it’s obvious that Palin was selected despite much more qualified field. Consider the circumstances: In an effort to win the religious right, why didn’t McCain select Mike Huckabee? Or to shore up his economic weaknesses in a time of financial crisis, why didn’t the maverick select Mitt Romney? Simply put McCain knew these selections were politically pedantic. 2008 was shaping up to be an unpredictable race. In order to compete with a candidate as revolutionary as Barack Obama, McCain needed his own lightning in a bottle, his own ace-in-the-hole.
What he got instead was Sarah Palin, an ostensibly shallow lure to the undecided Clinton voters and female voters in general. Hillary Clinton did a great job denouncing the move from the start when she implored her supporters to consider what the Palin candidacy meant. Bob Herbert of the New York Times said it best: “Ms. Palin is a walking affront to the many Republican women (not to mention women in general) who are, in fact, qualified to hold the highest office in the land.”
Ms. Palin has certainly endured a lot since her rise to national stardom. Amidst scandals like Troopergate and Broken-Watergate, Palin has weathered the liberal media storm. These I can forgive, for they have become nothing more than cannon-fodder for leftist pundits. I can even forgive her questionable view of history, the fossil record, and dinosaurs (although Matt Damon is right, I’m also slightly hesitant to trust the nuclear launch codes with someone who believed dinosaurs existed 4,000 years ago alongside mankind). What I cannot forgive is her often oblivious campaigning and her propensity to promote divisive thinking among her supporters. Never once did she disavow introductions by Republicans who proclaimed Obama a “terrorist” and “Muslim Fundamentalist”. What has become obvious over the past few weeks that Palin is an ambitious politician who is more than willing to pander to partisan politics and resort to name-calling to advance her own cause. This is the true hypocrisy of the Palin candidacy: although she claims to be a political maverick who wishes to build political bridges, she has reduced herself to the same in-fighting that has divided Washington over the last eight years. And while Barack Obama has positioned himself to win decisive swing voters through bipartisanship, Palin has proudly divided the nation into pro-American and anti-American sections, which is hardly a quality someone overseeing the United States Senate should possess.
The Vice-Presidency is a position often overlooked in campaign politics because it is often reduced to its campaign purpose. A VP, simply put, is supposed to shore up a candidate to help solidify support among undecided voters. But the problem with the campaign season is that it’s myopic in scope. Candidates plead for the short term benefit of votes, often at the expense of their hard-earned political reputations. Let’s not forget that this will all be over eventually and we will have new leadership in Washington, with leadership in the plural form. If so, then McCain’s choice of running mate is not only misguided, but selfishly reckless. Given the current state of our nation, buckling under a gargantuan financial crisis and a war without end, McCain’s choice of Palin seems sorely without warrant. I don’t say this because I buy into the Caribou Barbie stereotypes or that I believe that her affinity for hockey, moose, and fur coats separates herself from mainstream America. It is because voters in this nation will ultimately look past the smile and Tina Fey glasses and still realize the urgency of the times. Amidst banks going under, hurricanes smashing the Gulf Coast, and the declining educational system, voters cannot forget Sarah Palin for one additional reason: a vote for President is actually a vote for Vice-President as well, a joint vote of confidence in a team that together will possesses the future of our nation in their hands.