Tonight John McCain stood on stage and asked, “So, now do you see why I picked her?” But it didn’t take a speech for me to understand exactly why he had picked Sara Palin as his running mate. McCain–a candidate I would once have considered voting for, and, given the choice, would certainly have preferred as my president over George W. Bush for the last eight years–has completely surrendered his bipartisan, independent-thinker status in an effort to court the right-wing conservative base of his party.
Because if it was only a misguided effort to court women voters who are disenchanted by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Democratic primary, McCain had plenty of better-qualified women to choose from such as Olympia Snowe, Christine Todd Whitman, or even Kay Bailey Hutchinson–the only one of the three who would have met both the ultra-conservative and female requirements.
But John McCain himself has said that he likes to make decisions quickly, going with his gut, a trait he admits sometimes leads to regret. But he “lives with the consequences.” Good to know. Because I believe that this choice of a running mate says a lot about the kind of president John McCain would be, the kind of decisions he would make. And we’ve had plenty of the “act first, think later” style of leadership these past two terms.
But what really says a lot is the reaction within the Republican party to the news that Palin’s teenage daughter is pregnant. I never expected to hear a convention hall full of Republicans cheering the announcement that Palin will soon be a grandmother to an illegitimate baby. Because, of course, that’s not supposed to happen in the ideal world where teenagers don’t need education about birth control because they are all simply going to save sex for marriage. A world where programs to help teen mothers become independent and develop life skills provide a perfect opportunity for governmental budget cuts. And the only “choice” available for a young woman who finds herself pregnant is to marry the father and raise the child.
I don’t criticize Palin for having a teenager who is pregnant. To me, it says little about her parenting skills. Any of us who have teenagers could find ourselves in the same position, no matter how much we’ve tried to teach them responsibility.
But what I do criticize is the unrealistic world view she represents. A view that sends the message that sex before marriage is wrong and that using birth control would somehow make it more wrong because then it would be “planned” rather than just something that happens when two people get “carried away.” A view that says abortion is always wrong, even in the case of rape or incest. A view that says that women don’t need to be guaranteed equal pay for equal work.
And with all that in mind, I’ll be taking the advice of last night’s speaker at the convention, Joe Lieberman, who asked Democrats to take a step back and decide who they really want to be leading the country for the next four years. It doesn’t take a very big step for me to see that Obama clearly best represents my view of America as it could be, as it should be. A view that’s very, very far away from the picture Sarah Palin painted tonight.