Ever since John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate in August, I have been telling friends that my true "dream ticket" for the 2008 campaign would be Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Sarah Palin.
Yes, I know this sounds odd. They are from different parties. They hold opposing views on foreign and domestic policy. And Gov. Palin has raised some hardball questions about Sen. Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers and his comments about our troops "air raiding villages." But putting partisanship and bare-knuckle politics aside for a moment, there is something very good in both of them—something hopeful, something real that has resonated with millions of American voters of every age, class, gender and political party.
To many of my black colleagues, friends and family members, Sen. Obama is the only reasonable choice. I have been on a number of nationally focused political panels and debates targeted at black voters in the past few weeks where the mere mention of Gov. Palin's name draws boos and hisses from the crowd. This myopia is unfortunate. It may not be politically possible, but at this critical moment in our nation's history, the combination of Sen. Obama's optimism and Gov. Palin's tough-minded approach to reform may be just the kind of leadership the country needs over the next four years.
No offense to Sens. McCain and Biden, but they are relics from our past. Sure, they have served this nation well, but they are not what we need for the future.
Many argue that Sarah Palin is not the type of woman I should be supporting, as a black and still undecided voter. But I disagree. Women should always be supportive of one another even when we speak about our differences publicly. I felt the same about Sen. Clinton and how she was treated in the Democratic primary. Although I may not agree with Gov. Palin on most "social" issues such as abortion rights, I am excited at the prospect of a 44-year-old, Gen X, female vice presidential nominee.
She took on her own political party bosses in Alaska (like Sen. Ted Stevens) when it needed to be done. She is a married working mom, and she is setting a positive example (as is Michelle Obama) for tens of millions of little girls and boys about reshaping gender roles in American culture. I like that she knows her stuff on energy policy which in my opinion is front and center right now with the American economy in crisis. I like that she is a Washington outsider, is plain-spoken and hails from working-class, blue-collar roots, just as I do.
But herein lies my predicament: What should I do when I also admire and am so very proud of Senator Obama?
To be clear, I am a lifelong Republican. But I voted for Barack Obama in the Virginia primary. (Virginia has an open primary system that allows voters to vote across party lines.) Although I disagree with him on most of his economic and foreign policy stances, I admire his determination, his sunny optimism about America (very Reaganesque, by the way). I am a huge fan of his wife, and I really appreciate the gentlemanly way that he carries himself in the nasty sea of politics, as well as the positive role model he represents for millions of young black men in America.
Still, with Palin on the Republican ticket, I am struggling with how to vote on Nov. 4. Unfortunately, I have to vote for only one of these candidate's tickets—and in doing so I vote against giving unprecedented visibility and power to either a black person or a woman in America. Both women and African Americans need to learn to build coalitions and alliances in both political camps so that no matter who wins on Election Day, we will have a serious seat at the decision-making table.
Yes, this seems like an enormous stretch, but Sen. Obama and Gov. Palin, please accept my modest proposal to ditch your running mates and run together. It may offer us all the best chance for real change.
Sophia Nelson is editor-in-chief of Political Intersection where race and gender intersect politics.