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August 29, 2008

Rice sociologist calls McCain's pick 'strategically brilliant'

Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, believes that Sen. John's McCain's decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a strategically brilliant development. Lindsay is author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. I spoke with Lindsay this morning.

"The only dirt I know on [Palin] is that there’s some kind of indication that she was using political pressure to get [her ex-brother-in-law] fired. She has a lot of appeal for evangelicals. She’s pro-life, that’s something that’s important to evangelicals. No Republican has ever won the White House without evangelicals."

"If [McCain] had chosen a pro-choice candidate, like Ridge or Lieberman, [evangelicals] would have voted McCain, but they wouldn’t have mobilized around him. [Palin] is pro-life, she was involved in [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] growing up, she has the right background. Her child has Down syndrome. That shows not only a commitment to pro-life, but to living it out. That will be important for evangelical supporters of McCain. I think evangelicals honestly are probably relieved that McCain chose a pro-life candidate. In my research, the reason so many of these leaders were Republican was because of abortion."

"The real liability McCain faces is that he’s built his campaign against Obama on the issue of experience. Here’s a first term governor who was mayor of a small town in Alaska. Not a lot of executive experience, but McCain may be able to say there are different elements in the campaign that are important."

"I don’t know enough about [Palin] to say if she’s a perfect candidate. She doesn’t have the national profile that Mike Huckabee has. It is possible that McCain can introduce her to evangelicals in a way that’s winsome in the next couple of days."

Is she an evangelical?

"I don’t know what her church attendance is like. She’s been involved with groups that cater to evangelicals, but I don’t know if she is or not."

What about Sen. Obama's religious outreach? Do you think it's working?

"I think he’s very smart in terms of religious outreach. He’s got some great people working on his staff working on that front. The thing about Senator Obama’s campaign is that he does not have to win large segments of the evangelical votes. All he has to do is carve off some of votes in certain places. The cosmopolitan vote is the one most up for grabs."

"A cosmopolitan evangelical is someone who is less interested in converting the country or taking the country back for Christ; they are interested in seeing their faith as attractive. They’re less prone to see the evangelical subculture as their primary point of reference. It’s the cosmopolitan evangelicals that [McCain] has to win over in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida."


Sarah Palin is a brilliant choice. Obama will not dare to pull the Lack of Experience card because----duh. He has none. Some disgruntled Hillary followers might be won over simply because they want a woman so badly but I rather doubt that. But Palin WILL definetly rally the pro-life evangelicals even if she is not, technically, one of them (although she may be, we just dont know yet). As an ardent pro-lifer, myself, the sight of her on that stage with McCain and her little Down Syndrome baby that COULD so easily have been aborted but his parents chose Life----was moving. Especially in contrast with Obama's hell-bent-for-leather, kill 'em no matter what,stance. I mean, after all, the guy is on voting record as in favor of Live Birth Abortions.

Hey, at least Palin has EXECCUTIVE experience, which both Obama and Biden totally lack. Being a governor is a lot harder than being a junior senator, which is essentially a passive role.

Hey, at least Palin has EXECCUTIVE experience, which both Obama and Biden totally lack. Being a governor is a lot harder than being a junior senator, which is essentially a passive role.

As evangelicals we must have faith in our political stewards -- the Republican Party leadership. When they tell us, tacitly, that a candidate's lack of knowledge or experience does not matter, it is because they know that the "real" policy-makers (those men and women of purpose who work behind the scenes) will confront any serious threat to our nation. Presidents and Vice-Presidents are sometimes just window dressing. There is no cause for concern: McCain and Palin will be fine.

Susan Jacoby was right in her book The Age of American Unreason: If we believe that McCain's selection of Palin seriously alters his own positions on issues important to American Evangelicals, then the political and media packaging of Palin's vitae has worked its magic.