Talk about getting perspective in unusual ways. Who would have thought that the Republican vice-presidential pick would help me understand of some of the Barack Obama phenomenon?
I've never been able to identify very closely with the personal histories of presidential candidates. I may agree or disagree with their policies, but the biographies have never really moved me to vote one way or another--or even consider it. I've never felt any connection with Hillary Clinton--a woman, a mother--perhaps because she was defined for me during the Clinton presidency, perhaps because she's older than my mother, perhaps because her daughter is older than me.
So I've often looked down on "identity" politics--the idea that because Hillary Clinton is a woman, or Barack Obama is black, then someone would give them a more favorable look in an election. I make my choices based on actual ideas, not superficial things.
Well. John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for his running mate has forced me to change my snooty attitude a bit. When I heard it was to be Governor Palin, I got all excited. (I haven't been excited for anything McCain-related for weeks and weeks.) A mom! Someone I can really relate to! Gov. Palin is older than me, but only by a decade or so. She has five children (I have three and three-quarters), her youngest is a baby (ditto me, see also three-quarters), and she is dealing with one child with a disability (ditto me too!). She's not rich (her husband is a commercial fisherman), and she's from a small (population and political) Western state like me (Alaska vs Nevada).
(Of course, she also is the governor, politically savvy, tough-as-nails (apparently), has teenage children, and a son ready to deploy to Iraq. So obviously we are not twins separated at birth.)
Don't get me wrong, I still believe in voting for issues, not for skin color or gender. And I'm voting for the top of the ticket, not the veep. But the excitement I feel over this selection has instructed me, a little, in the way so many have felt (and feel) about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A little humbling, to be sure (I'm not always right? What??), but good to learn.