I was in England the last time a Republican candidate threw red meat this raw and bloody to the Conservative Right. It was the summer of 1988. George H.W. Bush had looked too liberal to the evangelical wing of the party. He had to do something to let them KNOW he was a conservative. So he chose Dan Quayle as his running mate.
From my position as an American abroad, I was sure Bush's choice was a fatal mistake. As a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, I occasionally spoke to Rotarian audiences. When they asked what I thought of the election, I let them in on the truth: Dukakis was sure to win. The election was a no-brainer because the senator from Indiana was an embarrassment. I pointed to Quayle's gaffes, his perceived stupidity, his inexperience. There was no way America would elect Bush.
I was wrong.
I didn't understand what Bush was doing. He chose Quayle for one reason only: the senator was Pro-Life and Anti-Gay, and Bush needed the evangelical vote. Reagan's blessing undoubtedly helped, but nonetheless, when Election Day rolled around, George H.W. Bush dominated the election on his own terms.
I remember that election night. I was sitting in my dorm room at Richmond College in London with another American friend, watching the returns on television. Allison Orr was a Republican, and I had laid down a bet on Michael Dukakis. I lost.
John McCain isn't worried about the fact that Governor Palin believes in Creationism, likes to shoot small animals, and is eager to plunder Alaska's natural resources. He knows the truth - because Steve Schmidt has shown the way things work in American politics.
Mark my words. Evangelical America has just found a reason to vote for Senator John McCain. That reason is spelled P-A-L-I-N. By choosing her as VP, he has locked up the evangelical vote. Why? Because of her position on abortion.
Except for slavery, no issue in American history has polarized this country more. Because of Governor Palin's position, American evangelical pastors will acclaim the McCain ticket tomorrow from their pulpits. You doubt this? Look at James Dobson - the spokesman for the Religious Right who refused to give the McCain ticket his support. He's now an "enthusiastic supporter." From now on, McCain doesn't have to do anything for the evangelical Right (and he won't). He's golden.
Can you imagine what President Sarah Palin's Supreme Court nominations would look like? Especially four to eight years from now if she takes the mantle from PRESIDENT John McCain?
Oh, and we can forget about using "inexperience" as an argument. Remember the last few weeks? We Democrats have been proclaiming loudly that it's judgment that counts. To evangelical Christians, having the right judgment when it comes to Roe vs. Wade is the only judgment that matters.
And it doesn't help that some believe Obama to be Muslim and the Anti-Christ: The Man who will create a One-World Government and bring in the Apocalypse. 12% of Americans believe this thanks to the power of viral emails.
If we wish to win, we Democrats need to cast aside any hopes that Palin will weaken the Republican ticket - and take her candidacy seriously. If we do not, we will lose. It's as simple as that. Unless someone finds a smoking gun - and I mean, something so far beyond ideological that it's criminal - the McCain ticket may prove unstoppable. We need to be afraid. Very afraid.
In fact, Obama's men and women behind the curtain need to reread The Prince. Because Steve Schmidt is applying all of Machiavelli's principles. And he's doing it brilliantly. The only thing that counts for him is winning - idealism has nothing now to do with McCain's campaign. Karl Rove's apprentice is as dangerous as the Dark Lord himself.
Look at what has happened in the few months since Schmidt assumed power. The McCain campaign has gone from a floundering ship under fire to Fortress America.
How did Schmidt pull that off? Simple. He made a pragmatic decision. He knew that most voters don't give a rat's derriere about who the VP is. So Schmidt tossed the Religious Right a candidate who shares their most important value. That Stealth Choice has turned the campaign offering into Prime Midwestern Strip Steak, grilled tasty and delicious - whether you are an independent, a moderate, OR a conservative voter.
I speak from knowledge and experience. I know the world of Evangelical America. I grew up in it. Many of my childhood friends and family happily compare the number of abortions to the number of Jews killed in Hitler's Death Camps. The Evangelical Right gave the White House to George W. Bush because he talked their language - TWICE. And thus I know there was a lot of whooping and hollering going on Friday morning.
Democrats take warning. With his choice of Governor Palin as VP, McCain just closed the evangelical vote in America. Locked them up. And there's nothing we can do about it. Come November, evangelicals will flood the voting booths, confident that God is on their side. They won't even need to feel slightly racist anymore.
Look at it through their eyes for a moment. What could be a more powerful argument against abortion than the iconic image of Governor Sarah Palin cradling her youngest child on her shoulder? She and her husband carried that pregnancy to term, fully knowing that the resulting child would have Downs Syndrome, yet fully committed to honoring his life. This one's a true believer, folks.
To the Religious Right, the battle against Roe vs. Wade has always been a war for the lives of millions of babies. Until now during this election season, its political battles have taken place behind the scenes.
Not any more. Be very afraid, Democrats. The Culture War just went hot on Friday morning in Dayton, Ohio.