Last Friday, John McCain surprised many of us when he named
first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Most people I�ve spoken with had, like me, never heard of
And the theories on why McCain picked her were diverse.
Many people I spoke with saw it as an attempt to lure
disgruntled Hillary supporters into the McCain camp.
Others saw it as an attempt to appeal to the religious
conservative base and/or the gun lobby.
Some called it a Hail Mary pass.
Some speculated that the other possibilities on the short
list had declined the offer.
And some saw it as a sign that McCain knows that he is the
captain of a sinking ship and has stopped trying. And now he can at least spend
the next few months of this campaign hanging out with a very attractive female
running mate. (I wonder what Cindy thinks.)
While I disagree with that last theory, the others all seem
plausible, as does a combination of any or all of the above.
But will this strategy work, whatever the reasons behind it?
That depends on how the McCain campaign will portray Palin,
and how the Obama campaign will respond over time.
There are plenty of things about Gov. Palin that may appeal
to right-wing voters, but there are also some drawbacks.
First let�s look at the plusses.
Conservatives might support her, and vote for her, because
she is staunchly anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-gun, pro-homeschooling, supports
Big Oil to the detriment of the environment and the polar bears, and believes
that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution.
She will also enable the McCain campaign to play another
sympathy card. Palin has an infant with Down Syndrome, which they can use along
with McCain�s POW experience to win some sympathy votes that have nothing to do
with the real issues that affect us.
There may be some women who will vote for her just because
she is a woman.
And there may be some men who will vote for her just because
she is a very attractive woman. (Like Cindy McCain, Gov. Palin is a former
Never overestimate the intelligence and common sense of the
average American voter.
On the other hand, there are some downsides for the McCain
She has been Alaska�s governor for less than two years. The
population of the entire state of Alaska is roughly equal to that of Memphis.
Before winning the governorship, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a small town
with a population somewhere between 6,700 and 8,500. She began her political
career in the PTA.
In other words, she is inexperienced. The McCain campaign
will no longer be able to play the experience card against Obama. (But it will
be fun to watch the highly experienced Joe Biden �educate� her on foreign and
domestic policy issues during the vice presidential debate.)
Her education amounts to a Bachelor�s degree in journalism
from the University of Idaho.
A lot of conservatives still believe that a woman�s place is
in the home, not in the White House or on the campaign trail, especially when
she should be looking after her special-needs infant.
And I cannot believe that there is a significant number of
disgruntled Hillary supporters who would vote for an anti-choice, anti-gay,
anti-science, anti-environment candidate just because she is a woman. After
all, Palin�s views are pretty much the opposite of Hillary�s views on most of
the issues. On the other hand, the National Organization for Women has
described Palin�s Democratic counterpart Joe Biden as �the VP candidate who
appeals to women, with his authorship and championing of landmark domestic
violence legislation, support for pay equity, and advocacy for women around the
But stranger things have happened. Like the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush.
Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure: This race for
the White House just keeps getting more and more interesting every day.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and
activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a
former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights
group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of
newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the
author�s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty
International or any other organization with which she may be associated.