For those interested, I will be making my choice for president public next week. The candidates, we now know, are Barack Obama and Joe Biden for the Democrats and John McCain and Sarah Palin for the Republicans. My choice will be made next week, so nothing I write here should be perceived as an endorsement of either ticket.
The newly announced vice presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin, is at this point the only unknown personality. If McCain wins the election on November 4th, his choice of Palin will be praised as a stroke of genius. However, if he loses, he will be viewed as a dope who shot himself in the foot by selecting Palin and assured his own defeat.
Palin has so far come across as an extraordinary woman whose political experience includes serving as a mayor of an Alaska town and governor of Alaska. She is a reformer who has proven to be a tough negotiator with Big Oil, pushing for both more taxes on oil companies and more drilling. Her husband is a member of the steel workers union and her son has joined the U.S. Army. She is an opponent of the right to choose an abortion, including in cases of incest and rape, and she is a hunter.
McCain selected Palin from a short list that included Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman and several Republican governors. He clearly thought she added to the strength of his ticket by dealing with the age issue in the event he might meet misfortune and require replacement, as well as the gender issue by putting a woman on a national ticket which the Democrats and their leader, Barack Obama, chose not to do.
Over the Labor Day weekend, I asked many people, including many women and men who are self-described progressive Democrats whether those who are unhappy or even angry that Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries and then rejected her as his vice presidential candidate, would cross party lines to show their dissatisfaction and support the Republican ticket. The answer, without exception, was a resounding no. Not one woman and not one self-identified progressive male told me they would cross over to the Republican ticket because of this or any other issue. My unrefined poll took place in a assisted living residence that I was visiting. Be assured that I was not there to test the facilities.
I have read in the press that there is one large group of women and men who are enthralled by Palin's support of the right-to-life movement demonstrated by her qualified support of the Republican platform on the issue of abortion which reads, "…..we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life." I believe that both Palin and McCain support an exception to protect the life of the mother.
Palin's position on abortion will likely add to the evangelical turnout. Obama's position on the Democratic ticket will undoubtedly cause a far greater turnout of minorities than usual, particularly of African-Americans, and the Republicans hope to offset that additional turnout by the evangelicals inspired by Sarah Palin's presence on the ticket. We shall soon know.
The Constitutional right of abortion is dependent on the U.S. Supreme Court which continues to support that right by a 5 to 4 vote in decision after decision. The Supreme Court membership is aging, and at least two vacancies are expected to be filled in the next presidential term. That one-vote majority can become a majority supporting the end of the right to an abortion in the first and second trimesters. Abortion in the third trimester has already been limited by Supreme Court decision.
I predict that the outcome of the presidential election will depend not on the economy, not on the Iraq war, not on the price of gasoline or the issue of national health insurance, but on the issue of the right to abortion. The next president will make the appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. John McCain has pledged to appoint Justices who support the right-to-life concept. Barack Obama has made clear he will only appoint Justices who will protect the right of choice for those choosing an abortion.
Several commentators have raised the question of whether the right-to-life organizations and supporters of the decision of the 17-year-old daughter of Gov. Palin to have her child would have rallied to the defense of Chelsea Clinton had she become pregnant while living with her parents at the White House and not yet married. On labor Day, Jeff Greenfield on CBS-TV posed the following question: “The one question that occurs to me is if 17-year-old Chelsea Clinton had become pregnant while living in the White House, would the reaction on the part of the Family Research Council and other very conservative Republicans been the same? Maybe it would have been, but it’s a question worth asking.”
The answer, I believe, would have been dependent on her decision — whether to abort or carry to term. If the decision were similar to that of Gov. Palin’s daughter, I believe supporters of the right to life would have cheered, especially if marriage would have followed. Had the decision been to abort, denunciations would have emanated from those same forces.
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