Most Americans would probably agree that rage is generally unfavorable. But these days, someone brand new to the national spotlight is all the rage, and she finds her bandwagon a bit fuller with every passing day. Not that Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin minds the rampant characterizations or barbs about inexperience that are being thrown her way; she’s happy to be raging against Barack Obama’s well-oiled political machine of astronomical fundraising and registering unprecedented numbers of new voters. McCain may claim to be the Maverick himself, but it’s Sarah Palin who is inspiring as much rage from the other half of America as we all felt when sweet ole’ Goose died. Now that’s saying something.
Newsweek columnist Lisa Miller is saying something, too. The selection of Palin, she claims, flies in the face of recent evidence that evangelicals have been turning from their hard-line socially conservative obsessions and “divisive religious rhetoric” toward things like “global warming, Darfur, illiteracy, human trafficking, preventable disease.” Had the change been made in earnest, these “softened” evangelicals could make political hay, potentially altering the identity of the Republican Party or swaying in large numbers toward Obama’s camp. But what Palin lacks in experience, she makes up for in zeal and focused ideology. She was raised Pentecostal and, if her politics are any indication, still espouses a strict moral code of behavior. Most importantly, though McCain struggled early on with the Republican Party’s evangelical base, Palin has announced her presence with the loud, angry beat of a very familiar drum: a rigid, aggressive pro-life platform.
Many of the young, reform-minded evangelicals might have been able to look beyond this utterly polarizing debate this election year – or at least see and clearly evaluate the issues surrounding it. It nearly goes without saying that evangelicals are pro-life, but it seems they were ready to turn the corner on their evaluation of its importance. After all, McCain doesn’t exactly stoke the spiritual fires that keep his base warm and active. Now, with the focus squarely back on a debate that essentially posits one candidate against the entire corpus of old-time religious values, abortion is returning to its status as the great wedge. While it may be true that change is coming no matter what ticket is elected come November, Sarah Palin aims to use one tried and true method to boost McCain into office: just the right amount of that same old, pro-life, right-wing rage.