I hate politics. The only thing I hate more than hearing about them is a talking about them, but I have to admit that the things I *do* like to discuss — motorcycle adventures, linguistics, various flavors of Lucky Charm, etc — aren't likely to change the world.
Unfortunately, these world-changing things are generally confusing to consider, messy to explain, and unflattering to, uh, humanity in general. The latest example is Sarah Palin.
She seems nice enough. She reminds me of my friends' moms when I was growing up, if somewhat better looking. And I'm sure this former beauty queen is doing the best she can with what must be an incredibly overwhelming opportunity. After all, at this time in 2006 the closest she'd gotten to anything like this was being mayor of a city of 7,000 or so people and an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.
Mrs. Palin must have had some idea that Senator McCain might tap her as his running mate, even though they had only really met for about fifteen minutes, which is incidentally less time than Manager Todd took to evaluate me for the ticket-taker position at General Cinemas in 1994. (I did fine.) The Senator had followed her career for awhile and openly admired her willingness to hand over Alaska to Big Oil. Still, it's a lot to cope with all at once.
So I understand her eagerness to take up the role of Token Female / Attack Dog. VP candidates are traditionally called on to say some of the nasty things that the president-hopeful cannot, and sure enough, she went after Obama with all the ferocity her speechwriter (former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully) could muster. She even literally compared herself to a pit bull, in probably the funniest part of the speech.
They spun her ignorance as an asset, having her defiantly argue that she didn't have to answer to the "reporters and commentators" (who knew she lacked any semblance of foreign policy experience), but only to "the people of this country," who apparently did not.
They spun her pregnant 17-year-old daughter as evidence of her "family values," bringing the girl's boyfriend on stage to show that the family would support the young couple and their incoming baby. (Whereas Evil Liberal Senator Obama would — what? Tie the kid to a rock and wait for the gods to take him?) They even zoomed in nice and tight on Trig, Mr. and Mrs. Palin's 4-month-old son with Down Syndrome.
But most of all, they emphasized her gender. With Sarah Palin, the Republican party hopes to win over two groups of people that seem to them like easy pickings: women who supported Hillary Clinton because she was a woman, and extreme social conservatives who don't think McCain is right-wing enough. It's a smart strategy.
Particularly the female part. Mrs. Palin even went as far as to *count* the votes the McCain campaign intends to attract via her lack of a penis: she said Clinton "left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America," going on to promise that "we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
Which would be cool. But it's unfortunately unlikely, since the Vice President actually has no executive powers. It's not much of a ceiling-shatter when your best trick is breaking the occasional tie-vote in the Senate.
It's also unfortunate for some of the folks who are warming up to Mrs. Palin that their favorite policies of hers would prove almost totally inconsequential even if she and Senator McCain got elected. For instance, she doesn't believe in global warming as anything we caused, saying "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made." Which is flat-out crazy.
But that doesn't matter when even her running mate is in favor of aggressive steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. So, sorry, guys: whichever president we get, he's going to believe in global warming, and he intends (or at least promises) to do something about it.
She's also for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is pretty incomprehensible for someone who claims to love nature and Alaska in particular. Again, though, McCain opposes such drilling, so it probably won't happen either way (fingers crossed).
She's hardcore anti-choice, even in cases of rape or incest, and that leaves even a lot of her Republican party-mates scratching their heads. She thinks Creationism should be taught in public schools, in Science class. That's, ah, rare. Especially since the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and all.
But even still — this bears repeating — even if you do agree with her, electing her won't get your policies enacted. How the Vice President feels about intelligent design has about zilch to do with what your kid learns in Biology class. Or Sex-Ed. My only guess is that the Republican party is hoping you won't realize that.
Look at earlier this year when she sued the Bush Administration for listing polar bears as an Endangered Species, even though scientists from the US Geological Survey showed that two thirds of the world's bears will disappear in the next 50 years. She argued that protecting the bears was interfering with drilling for more oil and gas. She lost.
That's the thing. If you vote against Obama because you like Sarah Palin, you lose too. If my worst fears are confirmed, and every last one of the young voters Obama has won over fails to show up at the polls, handing a victory to McCain/Palin, nobody gets what they want. Unless you wanted a meaningless victory wherein an unqualified person was ushered into the White House (and, given McCain's age, made dangerously close to being Commander In Chief) because clever party planners figured it would help them get your vote.
So my question is, and I wince to even ask it: Are they right?
I don't want to knock Sarah Palin. Like I said before, I'm sure she's very nice. But transparent campaign strategizing that ultimately leaves its supporters disappointed is not.
I'll sign off here with the words of another voter, who sees what I wish we all could.
"I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part - and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.” - Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK