By selecting Sarah Palin, McCain is pandering to the GOP's far-right wing rather than reaching out to women.
What's he token?
Under a very effective veil of secrecy, John McCain fooled the pundits and selected Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his running mate. I can understand keeping this one a secret. Maybe it should have been kept longer, until wiser heads could prevail.
It seems clear that the McCain campaign thought that by picking a woman - any woman - to run with him they'd be snaring away those Hillary fans who feel left out of the Democratic ticket.
We've all heard a lot about these women from those talkative folks in the cable news world. Then there was that woman from Racine who was selected as a Hillary Clinton delegate to the Democratic National Convention, who, in a fit of pique, announced to the press that if her candidate couldn't win she'd take her ball and go home - she'd vote for McCain. The Democratic Party wisely and quickly withdrew her credentials.
How the McCain campaign could assume that if people were unhappy because Hillary didn't get enough primary votes to win the nomination they'd switch their allegiance to candidates who stand for everything that Senator Clinton fought so hard against is beyond my comprehension.
And then, as if to emphasize that curious thinking, the McCainites chose a woman governor who's had less than two years on the job as McCain's running mate. (So much for accusing Senator Obama of a lack of experience!) And Governor Palin is about as far to the right as anyone can be. Instead of thinking of Hillary Clinton, they appear to have been channeling Phyllis Schlafly! The only similarity between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin is that they are both women.
To her credit, Governor Palin made headlines in Alaska by calling down shame on the corrupt Republican Party leaders in her state. She beat out incumbent Republican Governor Frank Murkowski in a primary and won the general election, and she has spoken out against Republican Senator Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens and Congressman Don Young to boot. She is gutsy all right. (Stevens has very publicly endorsed her candidacy for vice president, which might not be too welcome as he's under federal indictment for corruption.)
But Palin is also against a woman's right to choose. She is so against abortion that she would allow no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Could Hillary's fans vote for that?
She is not only in favor of off-shore drilling, she wants to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Fund, said, "In her scant two years as governor, she has lobbied aggressively to open up the ANWR to drilling, pushed for even more drilling off of Alaska's coasts, and put special interests above science." Could Hillary's supporters vote for that?
She has urged that Alaskan schools teach creationism alongside evolution in science classes, and has challenged established scientific facts regarding human-induced global climate change. Can you think that Hillary would agree with that?
But the principle argument against this candidate is that her selection is a slap in the face to all American women. The McCain campaign seems to cynically assume that women voters will vote for "one of their own," no matter who she is.
There are bright, experienced Republican women who might have been chosen; women like senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson or Olympia Snowe, or even Carly Fiorina, the fired CEO of Hewlett-Packard who has been out on the McCain campaign trail.
But the McCainites decided instead to find a comparative unknown who would toss "red meat" to the Republicans in their far-right base instead.
Cynicism wins out. And Americans, specifically American women, lose.
August 31, 2008
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John Smart lives in Park Falls, is a member of the Wisconsin Governor's Commission on the United Nations, the board of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools and a frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network.