I am an avid listener to talk radio, both of the left and the right, and have heard many comments about “what Sarah Palin brings to the McCain campaign” or something to that effect. It tends to come down to the following:
- securing the conservative base
- appealing to women
- appealing to moderates
- supporting the campaign’s relative strength on the energy issue, esp. oil
Neither being a woman nor a moderate, nor finding a McCain ticket with or without Palin particularly strong on oil, I will address only the first of those points.
It seems clear to me that Sarah Palin has done nothing to genuinely secure the conservative base. All that she really brings in terms of reaching conservatives is fitting a sort of conservative ideal personally–she’s a hunter, she plays hockey, she’s a mom, she has five kids, she lives out pro-life values. However, her record is painfully short, and inconsistent in those areas where she does have conservative bona fides. After the debacle that was Harriet Miers (and the leftists have a valid point in that comparison), the conservative base has shown that they are not generally swayed by statements of a candidate’s conservatism, or assurances from the president in Miers’ case. They want a history, a verifiable record of conservative principles shown in conservative actions. And that brings up what she really brings to the ticket, which is what the McCain campaign really needed:
She gives conservatives who are terrified of a Barack Obama presidency an excuse to change their minds about the unacceptability of a McCain ticket.
By that comment, I mean that many people, especially pundits and radio hosts, voiced opinions about McCain during the primary season indicating that they found him (rightly, in my mind) a wholly unacceptable candidate due to his support for such policies as “comprehensive immigration reform” and the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act (not its real official name). However, they see now how terrifying a Barack Obama presidency would be–how he would soak the rich (because they “can afford it”) to give more and more handouts to more and more government dependents, how he would fight to undermine traditional, American, Christian moral positions (cf. abortion, marriage), how he would withdraw the American military from a counterinsurgency campaign without securing victory, much like Vietnam. Seeing these problems, these vocal McCain opponents feel a need to support McCain if only to oppose Obama. They also see, however, that to simply ignore their earlier comments and support McCain would be rightly seen as hypocrisy and show them either to be lying or to have been lying about the quality of a McCain presidency. As such, they needed some quantum shift to justify switching their position on McCain, and the nomination of Sarah Palin gives them that. And that’s the real reason they love her.