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29 August 2008 

The Final Piece of the Puzzle: Sarah Palin

All the pieces are in place for the general election to begin. Obama-Biden against McCain-Palin. 6 years ago this would have been a dream election. Today the two top choices seem much more polarizing, and even McCain is somewhat a better choice then Bush. That being said, onto the most recent addition to the front, Sarah Palin.

I agree with must pundits that Vice Presidential candidates don't really have much impact on who people vote for, they are there to bring their home state, make the front guy look good and attack the other guy. I do think however, that there is a small part of the voting populace that will be swayed by a candidate's VP pick. In the word's of Family Guy's Brian, "undecided voters are idiots." Not in the sense that they are actually stupid, but in the sense that they either don't know enough of what they think to be voting, or haven't looked into the candidate's enough (i.e. being politically lazy) to know what the candidates' platforms and voting records actually are. It's among this small group of voters that the addition of a stolid old liberal like Biden or a fresh young conservative woman like Palin will make an impact.

On the surface, I think everyone is going to like Palin, she seems affable, charming, concise and fresh, but I don't think she is a good pick for McCain's VP. The biggest job of the VP is to be ready to step in and do the job of the President should something happen. This is something no one questions of Biden, a 6 term senator, but Palin is a first term (20 month) governor of a state who's entire population is less then that of Washington DC.

This does give her a very enticing similarity to President Laura Roslin, but in real life, I'm not sure that counts for much.

On the other hand, its pretty clear why McCain picked her. She adds to his image of change, she's not from Washington, she's young and popular, she's a reformer. Mainly though, the McCain camp thinks she might attract unhappy Hillary supporters who are feeling dissatisfied with Obama as their candidate. Now, I believe there are some women out there who are so intent on having a female representative in the White House that they will go over and vote for McCain, but these are the same women who wouldn't have been involved in the democratic primary at all had Hillary not been running. I think to the majority of Clinton's supporters, the choice of Palin may be a bit of an insult.

I've never been a fan of Mrs. Clinton, but her supporters followed her for valid reasons. She spent her entire life involved with the law, wife to a governor and a president, she spent 8 years in the White house, and has become an experienced senator, she's authored a great many bills, debated at the senate level, and been involved in state and foreign affairs for 20 years now. Palin, in contrast, has been the governor of Alaska for all of 20 months, has no experience in Washington, no legislative experience, no foreign policy experience, has never debated on the senate floor, and for someone billed as a reformer of political corruption is already facing her own accusations of corruption less then two years into her office.

She is not qualified to be the vice-president, let alone president should some thing happen to the 72 year old cancer survivor who she's running with. For that reason, I'm not sure this is going to bear much fruit for McCain. She's not known enough to energize young voters, not experienced enough to sway female voters, and unless she's going to surprise everyone, she's not going to be near the attack dog on the campaign trail that Biden will be.

What's more, she makes it impossible for the McCain camp to use their two main arguments against Obama as she herself is young and inexperienced and has no foreign policy credentials. All in all this seems like a poor choice, then again, maybe the GOP is just grooming her for a launch into more national politics in 2012? Who knows, but I think after the initial glamour of this decision wears off, and she has to go toe to toe with Biden on the national campaign, her selection as VP is going to seem rather weak.

So here's an interesting wrinkle that no one in the mainstream media realizes might be an issue. Many of the conservatives who Palin appeals to also believe in gender complementarianism. Of course complementarianism comes in many forms, sometimes merely saying that women shouldn't have roles of leadership in the church, but sometimes questioning the idea of women having leadership roles in secular society at large. I don't know how many people would choose not to vote for McCain because they don't think women are naturally fit to lead, but I'm guessing the number of them isn't likely to be zero. I don't know, however, whether that number will significantly affect any election results. I'll be interested in hearing what complementarians have to say on this.

Hat tip to Peter Kirk:


Note the quote from a John Piper- / Wayne Grudem-penned document, which questions whether women are really fit to be in leadership positions like prime minister, judge, college instructor, or even an incredibly responsibility-laden job like bus driver. You gotta like that John Piper!

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