Should Libertarians be happy with Palin?

Should Libertarians be happy with Sarah Palin, the current Alaskan governor and now Sen. John McCain’s running mate in his presidential bid?  The gut reaction is yes, Libertarians should be excited about Palin. Palin has a reputation for fighting government corruption, wears fur, shoots guns, eats moose and has earned the respect of our state affiliate in Alaska. 

Palin’s reputation as a reformer—standing up to politicians in one of the most corrupt states in the nation—appeals strongly to the anti-establishment tendencies of Libertarians.  Additionally, she was one of the leading figures in stopping the infamous Sen. Ted Stevens’ "Bridge to Nowhere."

On the surface, Palin looks like she could be the future of the GOP, especially where McCain fails to live up to the image Republicans hoped to recreate following an embarrassing self-defeat in the 2006 election.  Her appeal to the religious right for her strong pro-life stance, and her appeal to fiscal conservatives for taking down the Alaska-regime brighten McCain’s prospects in winning the hearts of the GOP base. 

But like the permafrost that lies a few inches beneath Alaska’s soil, is there a troubling layer to Palin that has yet to be exposed? 

McCain’s pick of Palin will be the defining moment in the 2008 presidential contest.  Like going for two instead of sending the game into overtime, McCain’s risky choice will be a make or break decision.  While other no-name VP picks have helped, or at least not hurt the presidential tickets, Palin’s unknown background may end up turning John McCain into a 2008 version of the McGovern/Eagleton ticket from the ’72 election.

Aside from a very calculated attempt to attract a number of different groups McCain has struggled to woo (libertarians, Christian-right, young voters), a Palin pick will seriously stunt McCain’s most effective attack on Obama: Lack of experience.  Some will say that Palin has more experience than Obama—and admittedly, it’s a close call, but even in Obama’s limited experience in the Senate he will have gained more practical knowledge of the Executive than Palin would have in her brief time as a city councilwoman, mayor and first-term Governor. 

After all, Palin will be spending most of her time presiding over the Senate (someone should tell her this).

"She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said State Senate President Lyda Green, a Republican from Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.

The New York Times echoed this sentiment, saying, "Senator John McCain spent the summer arguing that a 40-something candidate with four years in major office and no significant foreign policy experience was not ready to be president, and then on Friday he picked as his running mate a 40-something candidate with two years in major office and no significant foreign policy experience."

Secondly, Palin isn’t exactly the fiscal-warrior that many make her out to be. 

In less than two years as governor, she managed a 6 percent increase in part of the state’s budget, as well as being responsible for a windfall tax on oil companies—much like that proposed by Democrats and opposed by people like John McCain.  And, according to CNN, "Alaska now has some of the highest resource taxes in the world."

This, of course, has disastrous consequences to development in the area. "BP Alaska, which runs Prudhoe Bay, said earlier this year that it had delayed the development in the western region of the North Slope as a result of the tax," the Seattle Times reported earlier this month. "ConocoPhillips cited the same reason for scrapping a $300 million refinery project."

Palin also was responsible for using $500 million in taxpayer money to help build a pipeline in Alaska, without the support of Alaskan oil companies.  Without their support, CNN says many in the Alaskan government feel the pipeline will never be constructed, though the state will still be on the hook for half-a-billion dollars. 

Is this Palin’s "Pipeline to Nowhere"?

The calculated decision to pick Palin certainly flies in the face of most everything John McCain has claimed to be this election cycle.  For a supposed "maverick" that cares little for the political games of the establishment, his move to pick an untested candidate who fails to line up with him on a number of issues stinks highly of a cheap political ploy to pick up support from disenchanted voting blocks. 

One fantasy conservatives in the GOP are deluding themselves with is that somehow Palin will stem the leftward drift of their disorientated party.  Should Palin be the fiscal stalwart that conservatives hope her to be, she’s still playing second fiddle to the progressive John McCain. 

Hoping that Palin influences McCain and pushes him back to the right is pipe dream for bitter conservatives resistant to voting for McCain.  The fact that the GOP took out its ANWR plank so that it wouldn’t conflict with their nominee’s position is evidence enough that even John McCain has limits to how far he will tailor his message to pick up votes.

Palin was picked for what she represents and not for what she believes.  Where she stands on the issues is irrelevant to the campaign.  It’s a matter of how many voters she can pull in by simply having her name on the ticket.

In brief, Palin is a calculated risk that will in the end make or break the McCain campaign.  It all depends on what is living in the unseen layers of Palin’s unexplored past.  While the "Troopergate" scandal and some of the questionable policy moves during her short term as Governor may be overlooked or completely forgiven, "new dirt" is often amplified and exploited by a shameless media.  Be it a silly helmet, electroshock therapy, or scandalous photos taken in the carefree days of youth—all possible unknowns will keep GOP strategists from getting a full night of sleep until Nov. 5. 

As for Libertarians, Palin is certainly a breath of fresh air from the typical establishment candidates.  However, Palin is also more of a political chess piece than a real sign of reform within the GOP.  Her backseat in the "Straight Talk Express" makes her a passenger, not a driver, in the campaign.

While the base of the GOP may be more prone to rallying behind Palin than McCain, it’s still McCain that is heading the ticket, and it will be McCain that would be making the policy decisions in a McCain administration.  Though Palin herself may not know it, and though newly excited conservatives may not be willing to believe it, Palin’s role (and her views) will most likely be marginal at best. 

Voting for McCain because of Palin is like buying a jalopy with a fresh paint job, and hoping it will perform like a car right out of the factory doors.  The GOP is still heading down a bumpy path, and even a reformer like Palin isn’t enough to get it back on the pavement.