McCan't's pick for VP, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is a political lightweight all around. Less than two years as governor -- a couple of state budgets, some tax cuts, some spending cuts -- but that's all. She has no national exposure, and you couldn't get a more remote state if you tried than Alaska. Further, this is the state of Senator Ted Stevens, who is under indictment, who won the Republican primary there. And she defeated the incumbent Republican governor in the primary after he ran into ethics problems as well. That should tell you a little about the political climate (and perhaps the character of the voters) in that state. And to her credit, she seems to have earned a solid reputation up there.
The Down's Syndrome child was born just last April, her last of five children. Of course, having a child with Down's is a huge challenge for any parent, she's also got four other children, including one who is serving in the Army. Her ability to manage a challenging family was established long before having this fifth child, and I give her full credit for her strength as a parent. As governor, however, she likely has access to the highest level of care there is, so I would hardly compare her level of challenge to anything the average American parent would deal with in a similar situation. To me, the Republicans would be opening up a huge can of worms -- and would reveal Mrs. Palin to be of questionable character -- to make any more out of this information than just a human interest story about being challenged as a parent. As Obama said last night, when you have nothing to run on, you make "big elections about small things."
Children with Down's can usually walk, talk, feed themselves, brush their own teeth, etc., with effective speech, physical and occupational therapies. There are some health issues, and learning disabilities, of course, but it's not cerebral palsy, or autism, or other serious neurological disorder, which require significantly greater effort on the part of the parents. It's a genetically-based, chromosomal disorder that physical development, speech, and cognition to varying degrees, and affects physical appearance as well, but there are literally thousands and thousands of people with Down's who lead happy, healthy lives.
The issue personalizes her, to be sure, but in the end, she's not running for president and voters who pick McCan't because of her and her special-needs child will be a small minority. And I would contend that McCan't picked her for strategic reasons, not because he thinks she's capable of filling his shoes if he were unable to lead.
This choice is also an ineffective effort to show voters that the Republicans can embrace change just like the Democrats can. But let's not forget that nothing in the Republicans' choice is historic in any way except for the Republicans themselves. They are 24 years behind the Democrats in putting a woman on the ticket. They are behind the times on this war, behind the times on caring for American families, behind the times on reforming education, behind the times in fiscal responsibility, and behind the times in supporting the needs of women in the 21st century.
And no amount of political gamesmanship or weak attempts at egalitarianism will erase their failures since 2000 or their desire to continue those failures moving forward.