Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the expected Republican nominee, has chosen young Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), to be his running mate on the 2008 Republican ticket.
It's an intriguing selection by McCain, a sign that the candidate may actually possess a few keen political instincts. I know commentators have said that VP picks don't really matter, but if McCain had selected Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty (Gov. of Minnesota, R), I could have today virtually guaranteed McCain's defeat in November. With the selection of Gov. Palin, McCain somehow continues to actually have a chance of victory in a campaign that his opponent's party is heavily favored in, in a year where anti-conservative, specifically anti-Bush and anti-neocon sentiment, has appeared to reach an all-time high.
So why does the choice of Palin, a relatively obscure figure in national politics, provide McCain such a solid boost in the political standings?
Gov. Palin is female. Her selection is obviously an overture to disgruntled supporters of former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton. Also, Palin came into office as the Governor of Alaska by defeating an incumbent Republican who had plentiful connections to big oil in the state, while she promised to clean up Alaska's political system. Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) recently came under criminal indictment for his (alledged) deals under-the-table with an oil services company to provide him free services in exchange for his support. Alaska Rep. Don Young (R) was also charged.
So Gov. Palin carries some serious "reformer" street cred by helping to clean up Alaska politics. It's important for McCain to continue calling himself a reformer so he can avoid the stigma of the Bush-Cheney administration the Democrats have consistently tried to tie him to. One Democratic speaker observed this week that "McCain and Bush are awfully close lately" and joked about the Republican convention meeting in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the "twin cities".
Palin, while holding a solid conservative record (pro-life, pro-NRA, pro-oil), apparently lessens the appearance that McCain is just "a twin" of George W. Bush.
And as I have previously stated, it really doesn't hurt that she is a woman.
If any of you readers are former and/or current supporters of Sen. Clinton, I'd love to hear your thoughts on McCain's selection of a female running mate.
It poses an interesting quandary: what's more important to Clinton supporters, electing a woman to high office by voting for McCain-Palin, or promoting liberal policies and stopping the conservatives by voting for Barack Obama?
Or is Palin just conservative enough to appear anti-feminist despite being a woman? Or is one of the ultimate goals of the feminist movement, to empower women, ultimately more important than petty political differences between parties or ideologies? This is clearly a chance for a new generation to define the feminist movement. If you are a woman, and a feminist, what's important to you? What would you like to see in America to improve it for women?
I do believe that McCain's selection of Palin was a great political move, but it is up to history, and ultimately up to this generation, to decide what her selection means for women, and for America as a whole.