The Sarah Surprise

Why John McCain’s running mate has changed the game

While watching Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night, my conservative-leaning heart sank a little. “There’s no way,” I thought, “McCain will ever out-charisma this guy. And who’s he going to pick for V.P. that would garner any real coverage or excitement? Pawlenty? Romney? Capable politicians yes, but…(yawn).”

The next day, when Senator McCain named Gov. Sarah Palin as his choice for Vice President I felt kind of giddy.

Real surprises in political campaigns are a rarity. But Sarah Palin is the unexpected plot twist in a movie where you thought you knew everything that was going to happen.

As someone who’s gotten tired of the media’s love affair with Obama (a fact that even Jon Stewart consistently mocks), I loved seeing reporters completely thrown for a loop by this choice. I also appreciated the irony in the Obama campaign’s first reaction being insult and derision. They’re all about healing the politics of division in this country, ya know.

Good Choice
Why do I think Gov. Palin is a good choice? First, she’s solidly pro-life. I’ve read some writers who say that abortion doesn’t matter in this election, but I beg to differ. It’s the first factor I look at in a candidate, and I think many Christians of all denominations feel the same way. I understand we’re not supposed to be one-issue voters, but this is still an important issue especially in light of Obama’s statement at a 2007 Planned Parenthood meeting that he would enact a federal law removing any and all restrictions on abortion when he becomes President.

Gov. Palin’s pro-life beliefs are more than a political ideal. She chose to give birth to her son despite a pre-natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. According to a 2007 study in The New York Times, “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.” So Palin walks the walk.

And now faced with the pregnancy of her unwed 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, Sarah Palin and her whole family are sticking to their principles and supporting the teen in her decision to have her baby. The Looney Lefty blogosphere has already been tossing around vicious lies and innuendoes about the Palins, and will undoubtedly laugh at the imperfection in this Christian family—as if Christians consider themselves perfect.

“Sarah Palin is the unexpected plot twist in a movie where you thought you knew everything that was going to happen.”

On the contrary, Christians know—or at least they should know—that people are fallible. When we inevitably fail to live up to the standards we profess, we have God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness to help us move forward with courage and hope. Based on their past actions, I think the Palins will be models of that courage and hope, and help their daughter face the future with the best possible support.

Then there’s the other life issue: the War in Iraq. McCain has been accused of wanting to continue the war indefinitely. But both he and Gov. Palin have a personal investment in Iraq. Gov. Palin’s son will be deploying there in September. And Sen. McCain’s son served in Iraq recently himself, a fact the Senator never exploited for political gain. It’s illogical that these two will take the issue of war lightly.

Inexperienced but Impressive
Gov. Palin also has a history of taking on corrupt elements in her own party and sounds well-educated on energy issues. Though her experience is minimal, her accomplishments during her political career are impressive. Unintelligent, weak-willed pushovers do not take on their own party and come out the victors.

Now Gov. Palin needs to prove herself on the national stage to a hostile media and opposition. It won’t be easy. On Saturday morning, I was reminded of Hillary Clinton’s accusations of sexism against the press and Obama campaign. I wrote it off as sour grapes at the time, but now wonder if Sen. Clinton had a point. Two male reporters on a network news show snarkily commented that they can hardly wait to see the Palin-Biden Vice Presidential debate. The condescending connotation was, “I can hardly wait to see Joe Biden wipe the floor with this chick.”

Being that not a lot is known about Sarah Palin yet, it’s possible she will be a lightweight. But being that not a lot is known about Sarah Palin, she may also be smart, dynamic and articulate. Underestimate her at your own risk.

Considering how sick I was a few days ago of this already long political campaign, I’m surprised to find myself excited at seeing how things go down in the next couple of months. Gov. Sarah Palin is responsible for that excitement. Yes, there’s a chance she’ll cause the McCain campaign to crash and burn. She may also be just what he needs to turn this into a real race. Let the games begin.