Senator John McCain is going all-in with "pro-life" social conservatives by selecting first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate. Palin will be the first woman Republican nominated to the national ticket. With this choice, McCain is signaling that he is preparing for ideological battle, appealing to the far-right social conservative base that he called "agents of intolerance" when he ran against George Bush in 2000. RH Reality Check readers may recall that I wrote about this possibility June 4, 2008.
In her remarks Palin thanked McCain and noted the historical moment of her selection came 88 years, almost to the day, after women first gained the right to vote. In a clear indication of why she was selected, to reach out to women, she acknowledged the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro who was the first woman nominated to a major party ticket in 1984 by Walter Mondale, "and of course Sen. Hillary Clinton who showed such determination and grace in her Presidential campaign. It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
Sen. Hillary Clinton said today, "We should all be proud of Gov. Sarah
Palin’s historic nomination and I congratulate her and Sen. McCain.
While their policies would take American in the wrong direction, Gov.
Palin will add an important new voice to the debate."
That, in a nutshell, is the gambit, the Hail Mary, the roll of the dice that McCain is making, that women will be more interested in electing a woman based on biology, than policy.
Sarah Palin could not possibly be further away in terms of policy than the two women she saluted, Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton.
Neither McCain nor Palin once mentioned the words "pro-life" or even made an oblique reference to social conservative values. They want to introduce her only as a woman, working mom, reformer, striving to underscore the ticket’s claim to a maverick mantle, even as they double-down with the extreme far-right wing of the GOP to motivate the base.
They hope to attract women who don’t know her, and perhaps even some who don’t yet believe that women’s reproductive health is genuinely threatened by policies reducing access to contraception currently proposed by the Bush Administration, and by the promise to overturn Roe v. Wade that McCain has underscored with Palin’s selection.
Conservative icon Pat Buchanan called Palin’s selection, "the biggest political gamble, just about, in American political history. This will energize the base." Palin was a supporter of Pat Buchanan when he ran for President, declaring the Culture War in his 1992 convention speech.
Former Republican Congressman and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough said, "If John McCain’s campaign thinks he can get Hillary Clinton voters by choosing Palin it is condescending and insulting to women and it is a terrible political faux pas."
Former McCain adviser Mike Murphy said, "They know they are in a real fight here so there was a calculation that they need a real shock value here."
NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said McCain runs the risk of this looking like a gimmick. "John McCain only met her twice, he doesn’t know her. This goes against everything we know about John McCain, he like to surround himself with people that he is comfortable with and that are loyal to him and all of the sudden this is a political calculation and it is gimmicky," Chuck Todd said.
If there was any doubt about the stakes in this election for Americans interested in preserving the value of choice, and a Supreme Court that respects the differences of belief and faith and resists the push from the far-right to prohibit safe, legal abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade, there should be none now.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood of America said, “According to an article in the Alaska Journal
(3/16/08), when Palin was running for lieutenant governor in 2002, she
sent an e-mail to the Alaska Right to Life board saying she was as
“pro-life as any candidate can be.” She is also on the record stating
that she is opposed to abortion even in the case of rape or incest."
McCain flirted with returning to his centrist roots by considering pro-choice running mates like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman. His selection of Palin confirms the hard right turn he took in the primary, and puts a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions in jeopardy.
With this decision John McCain can reliably lock-up the approximately ten percent of voters who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but does nothing to reach out to Americans who may differ on the question of abortion, but prefer to implement comprehensive sexuality education and the prevention of unintended pregnancies. Those sorts of centrist views can now be found no where in the GOP ticket or party platform, moving the party even further to the right than the Bush administration.
How this choice appeals to independents, which is what any objective analysis suggests is most important in this tightly contested election, is a question.
Palin is opposed to gay marriage but sympathetic to concerns about discrimination because of her own gay and lesbian friends. She just doesn’t believe those friends should be allowed the same rights associated with marriage as she and her husband enjoy. She is pro-gun, common in the West, and a member of Feminists for Life, making her a hero for far-right social conservatives.
Palin is under investigation as to whether she abused her power in firing Public Safety
Commissioner Walt Monegan. The legislative council approved $100,000 for the investigation that will find out whether Palin was
angry at Monegan for not firing an Alaska State Trooper who went
through a messy divorce with Palin’s sister.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news comes in.