10/04/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Gone Old Party's Welfare Queen

Remember when Republicans used to favor merit as the basis for advancement? They used to say that the United States should be a meritocracy.

No more.


Let's cut all the Gone Old Party's nonsense about Sarah Palin having as much experience as--or, some have the audacity of dope to say, MORE experience than--Barack Obama.

And let's also cut all the Gone Old Party's nonsense about criticism of John McCain's choice having anything to do with her being a woman. That has it exactly backwards:

McCain's choice of Gov. Palin has almost everything to do with her being a woman.

Criticism of that choice has nothing to do with her being a woman.

What I am saying here and what most others who are critical of John McCain's choice are saying would be said in exactly the same way if the former mayor of Wasilla and governor-for-20-months of Alaska were a man.

If Sarah Palin were Abraham Palin, there is zero chance that Sen. McCain would have chosen him. (The GOP's opposition to affirmative action has apparently also been jettisoned, although in this case the action was designed to affirm McCain's chances of winning the election.) But if he did select a male with Gov. Palin's background, exactly the same criticism of the choice would apply.

Leaving aside PTA president vs. community organizer, living in the closest state to Russia as foreign policy experience and such, let's use traditional Republican values to tell the undeniable truth about the huge difference between how the two nominees got where they are today.

Eighteen Million to One

Sen. Obama went through nearly two years of grueling, sometimes vicious, campaigning, running one of the most impressive political organizations ever seen, and got his nomination because more than 18 million Americans decided he deserves to be president.

Gov. Palin went through one day of vetting and two meetings with John McCain and got her nomination because one American decided he needed a female from the "Religious Right" on his ticket.

Barack Obama got his nomination the old-fashioned way: He EARNED it.

Sarah Palin, in stark contrast, had her nomination given to her, after having passed no tests whatsoever with voters and the media around the nation. It was a handout from Sen. McCain.

Kind of like a political version of Ronald Reagan's mythical welfare queen.

{Historian Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College. His latest book is Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America 2008-07-01-GTJcoversm.jpg.}