Sarah Palin, who was elected governor of Alaska in 2006, was a surprise pick for John McCain’s running mate. An initial surge in popularity followed her nomination, as the base of the Republican party was enthralled with her hometown appeal and religious devotion. She proved to be a highly divisive figure, drawing social and cultural lines through the nation in a manner rarely seen in mainstream politics. To the right wing and conservatives, she is seen as an archetype of the small town, religious folks that they seem to believe the nation is full of from sea to sea. To the left, she’s also an archetype – but of a cartoonish, rural fundamentalist Christian that they so despise.
Palin’s weaknesses are clearly in her naive understanding of foriegn policy and conflicts, as well as her inexperience in leadership positions. Interviews by established journalists and media figures revealed Palin’s major lack of knowledge on some very basic world issues. These proved embarrassing to the McCain camp and incited jocular reactions from Obama’s camp and his followers on the left. These gaffes, and her inexperience in governance has clearly shown that she wasn’t yet of the proper caliber to be running on the vice presidential ticket.
Her strengths lie in her cultural appeal to certain demographics, mainly evangelical Christians, rural and southern conservatives, among whom she had built an almost instant following. Her naivete and outsiderness gives her a self confidence and gung-ho attitude that will likely prove her to be a forceful personality, not yet intimidated by the beltway political machine. These same character traits lend her an aura of authenticity in a field so characterized by phonies and yes-men.
As of Obama’s win on November 4th, her future is open and some on the right are very positive toward her position in the Republican party, while others are highly skeptical and see her as a relic from the past. To them, Obama’s victory was a cue that they can’t remain the same party as they’ve been during their successes of the last fourty years. The next few years will prove or disprove these points of view. The battle lines are being drawn already, and the 2012 ticket is sure to be hotly contested. The Palin camp, Mitt Romney, and up-and-comers like Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will all be fighting for top spot. If anything came out of McCain’s pick, it was certainly a star born, at least in some of the right’s eyes.