Now that the Democratic Convention is over and the Republicans are making history by nominating a woman for vice president in our party for the first time, something fundamental has shifted in this Presidential campaign.
I admit that when I first heard that Mitt Romney was not to be the Republican vice presidential nominee and that a mysterious Gulfstream jet from Alaska had landed with a woman and children on board in Ohio last Friday, where John McCain was to announce his choice for a running mate, I was not particularly enthralled. It was obvious then that Sarah Palin would get the nod and she was a complete unknown at the top levels of the
American political arena.
Even more, my first reaction was one of despair and to throw up my hands and say “It’s over. Obama wins.”
The major reason I favored Romney and felt a November loss was inevitable without him was first and foremost name brand identification. With just sixty plus days to go till the election, I felt strongly that we must have a name with which most people were already familiar. Try rolling out a new car or a new food product on the national stage that no one basically has heard of and having it become such a household word that people will buy it at least in equal numbers to the existing leading brand. That would seem just about impossible to do. More, there would appear to be no real reason to attempt to do it.
After all, John McCain was even with Barack Obama — if not slightly ahead — in the latest national polls, and he had obviously clobbered Obama at Saddleback. No panic mode was justified. A simple and effective choice of a media savvy and handsome guy, faithful to his wife and his values and a financial wiz with plenty of large state and national experience would seem to be the perfect fit on the McCain ticket. Why risk anything else?
But after a day or two of reflection and research, I have reached a different set of conclusions. First, the media coverage is so intense that indeed an unknown name can become a major recognized “brand” almost over night, and no doubt Sarah Palin will be a name to be reckoned with quite soon.
Equally important, the Republican base had to be awakened, and McCain knew they were at the very least still asleep if not downright disgusted with the fact that issues highlighted for this campaign did not trump the most important of all: the sanctity of human life. Governor Palin brings to the ticket real down-home American values. She has five children; she had no questioning moments in her birth to a Down syndrome child. She values life completely with no intellectual spin.
Whereas at Saddleback, Obama said that the moment life begins is beyond his pay-grade to determine, John McCain said immediately when asked that it is at the moment of conception. As Alaska’s governor and as an individual, Sarah Palin has confirmed that
view. Whereas Obama has stated in his own words that infanticide is sometimes justified, Palin has actually acted exactly the opposite. On the most important issue to the large majority of Republican voters, she is the embodiment of the right to life.
Making that issue a major one in this campaign will certainly bring out the Republican troops. While some may argue that this block of voters would still grudgingly vote for McCain, the problem with that argument was, “yes, if they bother to vote, they will.” But now those voters will now highly energized, and we have seen what they can do when they turn out in great numbers.
The media is having a field day, of course, on the “lack of experience” issue. What is amusing, however, is the way they frame that argument, saying that McCain can no longer criticize Obama for being inexperienced because Palin is even more inexperienced. But it is Obama who is running for the presidency, not Palin. While less experience a heartbeat away from the presidency is an argument, it is obviously less one than inexperience for the president himself. Judging over-experienced old Joe Biden against the young, vibrant and executive-experienced Palin, I’ll take Palin every time.
What is so good about the choice is that it says to Americans that there is room for a new player on the scene. There is indeed room for a Washington outsider in Washington and Palin is it, while Obama, who has presented himself in this manner, is most certainly not.
Another argument we have heard this week is that Palin’s choice is an insult to the women who were Hillary Clinton supporters because it says that just any woman will do, as opposed to seeing that women supported Hillary not because she was a woman first but because she was an experienced politician with messages that resonated with them on health care and the like. But Sarah Palin is not just any woman.
She too has political qualifications and is the only one of the four on the two major parties presidential tickets who has any governmental executive experience at all. She may not be Hillary, but she is certainly more than “just a woman,” and she will garner a number of women’s votes because she is a down-to-earth working class mother who exudes class and common sense all in one package.
John McCain in one master stroke has changed the whole dynamics of this election and, while the Democrats may be chortling with enthusiasm that they do not have to contend with Mitt Romney and can shrug off the lack of experience issue, they will come to realize, and hopefully too late to do much about it, that they have a most formidable challenge now on their hands and that their carefully crafted campaign has just had the rug pulled out from under it.