I have no idea if Gov. Sarah Palin is going to turn out to be a Tom Eagleton or Dan Quayle type of veep nominee. That is, the sort of Badluck Shleprock who actually manages to drain a half-point or so away from the ticket's vote totals.
More important, there seem to be little or few reasons for libertarians to cheer her choice. Sure, she's smoked pot back when it was legal, but opposes re-legalization because of the message it would send her kids. She was apparently for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it. She's not a Rick Santorum-style gay hater, but she's got the standard position (for both Dems and GOPpers, alas) of being against gay marriage. She's for teaching both evolution and creationism in public schools, which is arguably marginally better than insisting on just creationism [note: see comments below; Palin doesn't believe creationism should be part of the curriculum but that it can be a topic of debate); she is anti-reproductive choice anti-abortion but "pro-contraception."
I've got no idea of her views on immgration just yet, or free trade, or federalism, etc. And I must admit to a bias against folks from freedom-loving states such as Alaska, who tout their independence from Washington, D.C. and ability to catch fish with their bare hands and live in igloos and celebrate their frontier spirit all the while sucking in way more money from the feds than they kick into the till. (According to the Tax Foundation, in 2005, Alaskans received $1.84 from the feds for every $1 they sent in; such high-tax, high-income blue states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and California all give much more than they get.)
However all this plays out, to get a sense of Palin's use to the McCain ticket, look no further than this blog post by liberal Washington Poster Sally Quinn, who confesses to "shock" and then "anger" over the pick:
It is a cynical and calculated move. It is a choice made to try to win an election. It is a political gimmick.
Sen. McCain, have you no shame? You have taken an election and injected…politics into it. Continues Quinn:
This is nothing against Palin. From what little we know about her, she seems to be a bright, attractive, impressive person. She certainly has been successful in her 44 years. But is she ready to be president? And as the mother of five children, including an infant with special needs, does she have the time?…
She is the mother of five children, one of them a four-month-old with Down Syndrome. Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make? I'm the mother of only one child, a special needs child who is grown now. I know how much of my time and energy I devoted to his care. He always had to be my first priority. Of course women can be good mothers and have careers at the same time. I've done both. Yes, other women in public office have children. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has five children, but she didn't get heavily involved in politics until they were older. A mother's role is different from a father's.
This is an argument worthy of a Phyllis Schlafly or a Pope Benedict or a Bob Dylan. That it comes from a liberal journalist with a long career is pretty stunning—and testimony to the effectiveness of the pick as a way to short-circuit all sorts of bizarre identity politics in the election. The short rejoinder to this is to note that the choice to stay in the kitchen really is Palin's to make.
Elsewhere, Quinn lays into Palin's puny experience, which underscores another strength of the choice:
How can McCain call Barack Obama unqualified, inexperienced, not ready from Day One, not able to be commander in chief, and then put someone like Palin in a position that is a heartbeat away from the pesidency?
If anything, the Palin pick throws the experience question directly into the minds of voters at Obama's and the Democrats' expense. He and Palin are the same age; they both have relatively the same level of experience (which in the end really probably doesn't dictate presidential success in any case). And Obama is actually running for president, so his experience level is clearly more relevant.