Please forgive my blatant pun on the central question of a great American novel, but it seems everyone is asking this question. Senator John McCain surprised almost everyone universally in his choice of the Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate for the upcoming election. I have to admit that my first reaction mirrored that of many people, a resounding, “What, in the name of God, was he thinking or smoking?”
However, as I’ve done some research and learned more about the Honorable Governor, I’ve discovered that I rather like her. It is true that she’s only been the Governor of Alaska for roughly two years, but we should note that she was first elected to public office in 1992 as a city councilor. She became the major of her town in 1996, and then Chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (a very powerful position in a state such as Alaska), all before she became the Governor. This resume compares favorably with that of Senator Obama. She is three years his junior but has served in public office five years more than he has.
Speaking of that career, she’s accomplished some pretty impressive feats during that time. When she first ran for city council in 1992 it was on a platform supporting a controversial measure to raise the city’s sales tax while advocating for a “safer and more progressive Wasilla.” She served two terms there before she was elected Mayor, criticizing the incumbent for his support of high taxes and extremely wasteful spending. As the mayor, she reduced her own salary and reduced property taxes by forty percent and became the President of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. She won reelection against the same opponent she had originally unseated by an even larger margin than her first victory.
During her time on the Oil and Gas Commission, which she chaired, she was its Ethics Supervisor. She then resigned from that commission, citing a lack of ethics amongst its Republican members. She leveled formal allegations against one of her Commission colleagues who was also the chair of the Alaskan Republican Party, who resigned and paid a record fine. As Governor she ran on a clean government platform and won handily and then immediately made good on campaign promises. While in office her approval rating has NEVER been reported to drop below 76 percent; most polls consistently place her in the high 80’s to 90’s. Show me a politician who wouldn’t be jealous of those figures. On that kind of look, it’s quite clear that, with no disrespect intended, Governor Palin has more experience as an executive than Senators Obama, Biden and McCain combined, though admittedly not on a national scale.
Governor Palin can also lay claim to doing something that should make Senator Obama green with envy. She’s actually taken on the culture of political corruption and won. She resigned from an extremely powerful position because of corruption, which she then brought to light. Immediately after becoming Governor, she sold the previous Governor’s state jet on EBay. She is also supporting the challenge to Don Young, citing his questionable integrity and pork barrel mentality. That vote isn’t over, but Young is only 151 votes away from losing his seat. As governor, she has issued 4 vetoes (actually line item vetoes) to curtail pork barrel spending by more than $230 million. One could argue she’s been more effective there than Senator McCain, who makes it a key issue.
It would also be unwise to characterize her as an arch conservative. It is true that her position on abortion is extremely conservative, desiring illegality with the sole exception of medical necessity (an extremely rare event by the way). However, despite this, she has made no move, ever, to actually attempt to curtail abortion legality and in fact supports the use of contraception. On LGBT rights, the Governor is rather enigmatic. She supports the “traditional” definition of marriage and supported the 1998 amendment to the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage as well as a non-binding referendum to deny state health benefits to same sex couples. However, as Governor she issued the very first veto of her administration to block legislation that would have denied state benefits from the same-sex partners of state employees, in direct opposition to her personal beliefs. She justified her veto by saying that she would have violated her oath of office if she’d signed an unconstitutional piece of legislature. Hardly the staunch level of conservatism the religious right would like to see.
Governor Palin has many other interesting and complex views on issues that I encourage Republicans and Democrats alike to research and think about her views. What they will find is a woman who is neither an inexperienced neophyte nor a grizzled holdover from days past; well, actually, she is a holdover from days past. She still believes that a government should be run with integrity, balanced thought, and unobtrusively rather than rampant corruption, knee-jerk feels goods, and universal pervasiveness that defines the current state of affairs, something to which no proposal from Barrack Obama has put forward remedies. Governor Palin is a strong and vibrant woman who truly has an idea, and if for no other reason than that, I would be proud to call her the Madam Vice-President.