The bold-stroke selection of the charismatic, self-described "pit bull with lipstick" vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has added a more compelling story line to an already pivotal election. The questions raised by her candidacy are numerous. Besides the obvious one of whether she will help the McCain ticket win this fall, there is a longer term question about the impact of her candidacy. That is, does Palin's run signal the beginning of a new generation of more assertive Republicans that will lead the party toward a more promising future, or is it simply an astonishing aberration?
From what I've observed of Sarah Palin thus far-her toughness, smarts and wit in the midst of adversity-it's hard not to relate her selection at this point in our nation's history to the biblical story of Esther, one of the most influential women in the Bible. Recall that Esther, as Queen of Persia, was caught up in a very tense situation involving a plot to destroy her people. One false move could have cost lives, including her own, as well as those of many Jews.
When her cousin Mordecai pleaded with Esther to confront King Xerxes on the evil Haman's plans to destroy the Jews, Esther at first was reluctant until Mordecai spoke from his heart: "Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" With that, Esther boldly approached the king and spoke plainly about Haman's dastardly plans. As a result, the king issued a new edict granting the Jews the right to assemble and protect themselves.
Is there a "divine appointment" about Sarah Palin being chosen at this moment? Time will tell, but certainly the signs point to something Providential about her selection. To the extent that an Obama presidency represents a clear and present danger to our nation, Sarah Palin may have stepped onto the national stage at just the right time to help avert that disaster in the making.
That there is palpable excitement among most conservatives about Governor Palin as the VP candidate is clear. The excitement may be borne as much out of admiration for her plain-spoken manner, executive accomplishments and status as "one of us" as for her positions on the issues. But then again, that may not matter a lot. For now, it's enough to know that her character, authenticity and presence are winning people of all political stripes over. If she doesn't compromise her beliefs or values to do that, then we may be witnessing the most potent Republican since Reagan.
This is not to say that Palin is in fact the next Reagan. Comparisons like that are neither fair nor relevant. Being who she is, an authentic person with an inspiring American story and great leadership abilities, is plenty enough. If she puts more focus on reforming corruption than other conservatives might, then perhaps that's what these times demand.
Her ability to work with Democrats and independents in Alaska and even have some of them in her administration may be laudable, but as we have seen with President Bush, success in this area at the state level doesn't necessarily translate to the briar patch of partisan Washington politics. There's often a fine line between winning the opposition over and negotiating compromises with them. Reagan was a master at winning them over. Palin has shown the ability, like Reagan, to defeat her opponents as well as win them over-you don't get an 80 percent approval rating, even in a relatively Republican state like Alaska, without support from some Democrats and independents. With her charismatic personality and strength of her convictions, she certainly has the potential to win them over in Washington as well.
So far, Palin's greatest success as the VP candidate is her willingness to take highly effective right jabs at her opponents, especially Obama. This ability of hers to fight back and take it to the opposition is something we've been longing for after so many years of our "leaders" acting as a collective punching bag for the left. The question now is, how will she be able to reconcile her brilliant "attack dog" role with McCain's (and her) professed desire to work with the other side of the aisle in Washington? Again, time will tell. In the mean time, the next 60 days promise to be some of the most important in shaping our nation's future. And accordingly, we need to continue our excitement about this ticket, and make the most of our chances to get out the vote for such a time as this.