In recent days, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have directed accusations of elitism at the Democratic ticket, as well as at the media, suggesting that there is something undesirable about a presidential candidate with extensive knowledge of foreign policy, inner city community struggles, constitutional law and the complexities of the major domestic crises. This is baffling. Don’t we want an elite leader? Don’t we want a White House made transparent by an elite press? We are a large and complex nation with large and complex problems. Common sense suggests, and the last eight years have shown, that perhaps the president should be something of an elite leader.
Barack Obama studied international relations at Columbia (he also has a law degree and has taught constitutional law) before returning to Chicago to be a community organizer. Meanwhile, Palin ran for Miss Alaska (she placed second) and then received a bachelor’s degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho. She returned to Alaska and became a reporter at a television station’s sports desk.
For just 22 months, Sarah Palin has been the governor of a state of just 680,000 people that is “awash” in money (as former Alaska governor Tony Knowles put it) and receives more pork-barrel money per capita than any other state. Alaska has no tricky border or immigration issues with the remote parts of British Columbia and the coast of Siberia. There are no inner cities struggling with poverty and daily violence. There is a lot of drunk driving (Alaska is dark and cold much of the year), though the state police force is well funded, and the road system they patrol is startlingly simple; I can’t think of a stretch of highway lasting 15 miles that has more than four lanes.
John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin shows that he is moving farther and farther to the right of mainstream America. If he’s doing it for political reasons, he’s no maverick. If he’s doing this for reasons of principle, he is merely out of touch with most Americans. Ninety percent of the delegates to the Republican National Convention were white. That might resemble the America that the Republican Party sees, and it certainly resembles the demographics that shaped Gov. Palin over the many years she’s lived in Alaska. But it’s not the America most Americans live in. Not only is Sarah Palin’s executive experience inadequate, her worldview is not even remotely diverse or nuanced enough to appreciate either the domestic challenges or international complexities that a VP must grasp at the most basic level. A McCain/Palin administration would be risky at best and potentially disastrous.
I’m sick of Republicans suggesting I’m unpatriotic while they ruin my country’s reputation around the world. I’m sick of people casting votes of fear because of threats that are mischaracterized and exploited by their own political leaders. I’m sick of distorted television commercials being my country’s primary method of public discourse. And I’m sick of being told that straight, white, Evangelical family values are better for our country than my family’s values. Anyone who has paid lip service to the idea that America’s strength relies upon its diversity, be warned: It’s actually true, and it will be even truer in the future. I think my generation will be known as the diversity generation. We get America. We are ready to be leaders for the world community. We are motivated. We think. We are patriotic.
And if we vote, we cannot be outnumbered.
Ryan Quinn was born and raised in Alaska. He now lives in New York City.