Palin’s nomination leaves people wondering what’s next

So, John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

Let me just say, wow. That’s not exactly what I repeatedly shouted out when I first heard the news, but it’s close enough for publication.

Like everyone else, my astonished reaction wasn’t due to the event itself being inconceivable – I’ve heard pundits debating the likelihood of a McCain / Palin ticket for months. Palin even had a brief appearance in “Time for some Campaignin'” the Jib-Jab political cartoon of the season (as a passenger on McCain’s “Straight Talk Express,” used as a symbol of the changing face of the Republican Party).

When I heard them, I passed these whisperings off as little more than rumor. Like my pre-‘scandalous affair’ notion that John Edwards would be balancing out the Obama ticket, I figured this Palin business was wild speculation.

But the reason I found McCain’s choice so surprising was that it caused me to suddenly question every other pre-conceived notion I’ve had so far about this election.

I had Obama pegged for the Democratic top spot ridiculously early; with a certainty that would have been fairly embarrassing for me had it not played out the way I had imagined. Since then, I’ve been adamant that it was the Democrats race to lose.

Now that something I didn’t see as a real possibility has occurred, I’m left to wonder what other unexpected events might surprise me between now and November.

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My impartiality in the entire affair has been affected by the addition of a local player into the mix. Palin is Alaska’s governor, and I’m a lifelong Alaskan. I encouraged many people to vote for her in the governor’s election; I still have her campaign signs in my garage. This may not affect my vote, but it certainly brings a number of new and complex issues for me into an already dynamic race.

First, Sarah Palin is kinetic. John McCain couldn’t have made a more politically invigorating pick. She’s also aesthetically pleasing and an absolutely phenomenal public speaker. Couple that with the meteoric rise to power she’s already achieved and you have a star to rival Obama’s.

Also, at 44, Palin is Alaska’s youngest governor. As a first term governor with two terms as Mayor of Wasilla and two terms on Wasilla City Council, she’s been described as incredibly unqualified. However, inexperience in politics is often meted equally with an idealism that only a junior politician can bring to the table.

Palin is also female. Don’t pretend it’s not important, because it counts for a lot – given this season’s rallying cry of “change,” if only demographical. In her acceptance speech, Palin referenced Hillary Clinton, and spoke about breaking the “glass ceiling” once and for all. Despite Clinton’s posturing for Obama, Palin might capture a good number of Clinton’s disillusioned supporters, female or not.

Finally, there is the four letter word: ANWR. Okay, so it’s an acronym, but I see oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a contentious issue this campaign season. It would be a risky move for Obama to directly attack Palin’s pro-development stance, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see environmentalists directing smear campaigns at Palin.

Make no mistake, mineral rights are the one and only reason you and I can live in this beautiful state. Oil drilling (and our state constitution of course) allows me to avoid the burden of a state income tax. It even pays me annual dividends. If you’re against drilling in ANWR, you should probably not live here – it’s more than a little hypocritical.

So yes, I would be pretty excited about the benefits of having an Alaskan in the White House. McCain says he’s against drilling now, but I bet a few trips to the North Slope with Palin could change his mind. But I simply can’t justify compromising my morals simply to continue my support of Palin’s career, or even for a larger Permanent Fund check.

Unfortunately, most Alaskans won’t think twice about giving Palin their unwavering support. Not that Alaska’s three commonly electoral votes are critical, but McCain’s decision pretty well cemented them.

On the up side: I now have a reason to be satisfied with a Republican win, as well. Well, consoled, at any rate.