McCain Picks Palin for VP: A Giant Step for Tokenism, Not Diversity

McCain Picks Palin for VP: A Giant Step for Tokenism, Not Diversity

Come on, now. Let’s be honest. Condoleeza Rice. Hillary Clinton. Sarah Palin. Which one of these names doesn’t belong?

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is probably a fine wife and mother. Let’s also assume that she was a good mayor. And she may be a great governor for her state. (After less than two years, the jury is probably still out. But I’ll let Palin’s fellow Alaskans be the judge of that.) However, I can’t believe that women in general, and supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton in particular, won’t recognize that McCain’s selection of Palin as his veep choice is anything but a breakthrough for gender diversity in American politics. Let’s call it what it is: tokenism.

What made the campaigns of Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama historic and ground-breaking, in terms of race and gender diversity and the “ultimate glass ceiling” blocking access to the White House, is that they had to compete for their positions. They ended up finishing first and second in the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination based on their performance and their qualifications in a hotly contested, grueling, 18-month race under intense media scrutiny.

The Republican response to Palin’s obvious lack of experience is that she has more executive experience than Obama has (and, for that matter, more than Clinton has), and therefore is more qualified to be VP than Obama is to be president (and, by inference, than Hillary is to be VP or President). Really? Executive experience over what? Palin is the governor of a state with a population of 670,000 people (there are 19 U.S. cities with greater populations), and a state budget of less than $3 billion. Most of the people in her own party have never heard of her, much less viewed her as a potential Leader of the Free World. Prior to that, she was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska–population 8,500. (There are 11 schools on the 2008 Black Enterprise Top 50 Colleges for African Americans list []  with student enrollments greater than that.)

Sarah Palin’s resume does not even come close to the achievements, experience and qualifications of Hillary Clinton–not by a long shot. In fact, Palin’s not in the same league with other prominent women Republican leaders (few as they are) such as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice or Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Palin’s appeal to Pro-Lifers (because she chose to have one of her children knowing that the baby had Downs Syndrome) and those who are against gun control (Palin’s a life member of the National Rifle Association) are legitimate attempts to appeal to a conservative base that is not truly enthusiastic about McCain’s candidacy, but it hardly qualifies her