Long before candidates were announced for VP, it was a crucial part of McCain's strategy to pick up the pro-Hillary Dems who were miffed by Obama's wins int he primary. As most pundits would tell you, this was a Democrat's year to lose, and McCain had to pick up ground where he could. But instead of picking a smart choice that rose above partisan politics ina Democratic year to lose, McCain chose to shore up his base--a base that would have voted for him in likely any situation--and pick a base VP candidate, Sarah Palin. In the months that have ensued, we have watched McCain's campaign unravel with McCain even admitting, in humor on SNL albeit, that his VP had gone rogue and was gunning for herself.
Prior to August 2008, Sarah Palin was a relative unknown to anyone outside of political circles. She was the governor of a state rich in natural resources, but low in political clout. She was known inside the Republican party for being staunchly-pro-life, but nothing much else. In the months leading up to the conventions, McCain's campaign pulled a page out of the Hillary Clinton playbook, calling Obama elite and un-American. It rang true with white American voters--particularly those white men and women who were miffed at Obama for his "clinging to guns and religion" comment during the primaries.
It was clear that McCain needed to garner this support, but how to do it without alienating the conservative base was the tricky part. It was like asking for a peanut butter jelly sandwich and expecting not to get your hands sticky--it was, in other words, impossible.
So in the same form in which McCain changed his mavericky ways from a maverick independent bending partylines while crossing them to a conservative maverick siding with one of the worst presidents in American history, just to get a fraction of the Christian evangelical support George W. Bush once conquered, McCain decided to abandonned those who admired his independent streak, and hope that the conservative Christian Bible-Belt Americans would get him through.
Thus, he picked the most conservative sheep in wolves' clothing.
McCain aimed high by picking a woman in order to gather support from the Clinton campaigners bitter that another election cycle had gone by without a woman in the White House. But his aim was off and instead of picking a qualified candidate, he picked one who typified white, female tokenism--a cute, energetic, airheaded white woman who was folksy as the day was long.
In the past eight weeks, McCain's campaign has fallen apart, in large part just because of this choice. He has shown his weakness to those who hold the party's pocketbooks by picking an ultra-conservative. He has shown his willingness to forego his independent ways (as independent as a Republican can get and still get elected) on issues such as LGBT rights and reproductive choice just to get a few mad women to vote. He has shown, in otherwords, that he is erratic and cannot be trusted with truly vital choices for this country.
McCain may claim Country First, but he certainly doesn't play with that slogan in mind.
Like a kid in a candy store, instead of sticking by the penny candy that would have lasted him the rest of the election, he went with the shiny lollipop which was bright and colorful for awhile, but has faded away into less than a stick of its former self. In fact, if he wanted to garner the world's attention with his brand new toy, he hould have picked a better toy because the world is watching and they're sorely dissappointed.
True, Palin has energized the base of the new Republican party, but unlike the way in which the Rove machine did it for GWB in 2000 and 2004, this time around, the more liberal Republicans and true fiscal conservatives feel disowned. Talk show after talk show, report after report, shows Republicans turning to Obama in waves of dissappointment. The man they once called Maverick has instead gone bersurk, pandering to the very people who would have voted for him with any other Republican VP candidate. In fact, as a reformer, you'd think he would have picked someone without a questionable ethics record.
Consider this--if McCain had picked a Rudy Guilianni or a Tom Ridge as VP it may not have been as glamorous at first and would have carried its own risks, but it would have been a smart choice to satiate those Republican faithfuls hell-bent on lowering taxes and limiting government. Instead the people that he invigorated, the social conservatives, are the same people that would have turned out for him anyhow because they could never picture themselves voting for a pro-choice candidate, much less one who was Black.
In the end, after tonight, it is likely that McCain will regret this pick for the rest of his life. A VP gone rogue has slashed and burned his last chance at becoming president. And for a Maverick, it is just as important to admit wrong turns as it is to take chances.