I have to say I was a bit nervous. As I was packing to join the rest of the Oklahoma delegation in the Twin Cities, I wondered what the effect of Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential pick would be. Joe Lieberman would have been divisive, Tom Ridge disastrous. As for Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson, neither would have attracted the kind of attention that has been the sole possession of Sen. Barack Obama for the past few months. Nothing could have prepared us for the earthquake that came from the frozen north.
Just a few days later, I was sitting in the hockey arena in St. Paul, Minn., (appropriately enough) when Gov. Sarah Palin entered to thunderous applause. I saw the stresses and fatigue of my party fade away to a renewed sense of unity. What once was a long shot for a rebound from the disaster of 2006 is now a fair, even fight.
Too many commentators have focused on how McCain and Palin differ ” he an older man with decades of Washington experience, she a young woman new on the national scene. To understand McCain’s choice and the eagerness with which Palin has been received, it is more instructive to look at their similarities. These similarities are most apparent in the figure of McCain’s political hero (and mine), Theodore Roosevelt. McCain sees in him a vigorous reformer who took on corruption in his own party and stood for a strong America on the world stage while holding fast to traditional values at home.
But consider a few more facts about our youngest president. TR, born a New Yorker, was nevertheless identified with the frontier of the great American West. After representing his neighborhood in the state Assembly, he ran for mayor of New York City and lost. Before being elected governor, Roosevelt served in appointments as president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners and civil service commissioner. A short two years after being elected governor of New York (where he took on the corrupt Republican machine), he contributed greatly to a Republican president weakened by an unpopular occupation and a recent downturn in the economy.
Palin’s history is shockingly similar. This Alaska hockey mom (and hunter like TR) served on the city council for years and then won the mayor’s office. Palin was later appointed chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after losing a race for lieutenant governor. Discontent with the corrupt Republican machine played an important part in getting this brave reformer elevated to governor. Two years later, Sarah Barracuda is ready to blaze a new path out of the wilderness for the GOP.
The Democrats are running headlong into the trap set for them by McCain’s strategists. Raising the issue of experience can only hurt the Obama campaign. Aside from the fact that Palin has run a city and a state whereas Obama (or Sen. Joe Biden, for that matter) has never ran anything, by picking a fight with the No. 2 of the GOP ticket, Obama lowers his own stature while raising Palin’s.
Oh, by the way, the Republican ticket of 1900 defeated a Democratic ticket led by a young orator from the Midwest who was introduced to the national stage only four years earlier by a rousing address to the Democratic National Convention.
Reese is an attorney who lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and sons and served as an alternate delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention. His impressions of the convention can be read at okgazette.com/blog.