The selection of Governor Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party has certainly introduced new energy into an already historic general election. Broadly speaking, Senator John McCain caught Senator Barack Obama and the Democratic Party off guard by choosing a candidate who embodies the change Obama has been eloquently promoting on the campaign trail here in the United States and even abroad during his premature victory tour.

Palin presents McCain with a unique opportunity to mobilize social conservatives because of her strong pro-life record and has tapped into what Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) calls the sleeping giant: Republican women. Since her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin has a proven record of consistently supporting a culture of life. More recently, she and her husband decided to keep their youngest son who was diagnosed with Down syndrome during pregnancy.

Her appeal, however, encompasses not only the conservative base of the GOP, which was uneasy with self-proclaimed maverick McCain, but also suburban, working-class mothers living across the country, particularly in battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. This is evidenced by the 12-point jump in McCain’s “favorable” ratings among this demographic immediately after the Palin pick.

Though Palin’s brand of GOP politics differs from McCain’s known moderate stances, she is a compliment in practical applications of conservative principles. Palin has spent most of her career fighting against corruption – even in her own party. She embodies the same anti-establishment spirit that has made McCain both admired and reviled in the halls of the Senate. (Remember campaign finance reform and the recent immigration debate?)

ore importantly, Palin is keenly aware of the difficult position she is in as a popular, effective leader of a state party in disarray. Building consensus through negotiation and cooperation is necessary because of the unusual dynamics of a coalition in the Alaska State Senate. Her reform policies in Alaska have been successful and mark the beginning of a shift from the entrenched system of bribery, cronyism and deception.

Since becoming governor, Palin has played an active role in the day-to-day business of her state. The Office of the Governor in Alaska has oversight of approximately 14 departments, four public retirement plans and a university system. Together, this is nearly 20,000 state employees and a budget of $6.6 billion.

In the two years that Palin has been leading the state of Alaska, Obama has been a full-time, teleprompter-reading presidential candidate, and has occasionally fulfilled his senatorial duties and responsibilities to the people of the state of Illinois. His executive experience constitutes his time as a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side and administering his current staff of 64 at the Senate, about which accusations have arisen that women actually earn significantly less than their male counterparts.

Along with her proactive governance style, Palin has turned the Alaskan economy around and produced a $5-billion budget surplus. She has proposed spending half ($2.6 billion) of this surplus on education and another $1 billion on transportation and infrastructure improvements. During this same time, Obama collected $126,439 in contributions from executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What has greatly and directly benefited the people of Alaska, however, is Palin’s new energy assistance program. Through a legislative proposal, Palin argued that oil companies had state legislators in their pockets, guaranteeing lower taxes for themselves. She took on the oil companies and now each eligible Alaskan will receive a $1,200 check and the state’s eight-cents-per-gallon fuel tax will be suspended for a year. Given the current economic situation, effective use of taxpayer dollars and offering relief when a gallon of regular gas is $3.67 is essential.

No single issue is more important to the future of our country, especially with a changing economy, than energy independence. It has ramifications on our foreign and trading policies that intersect at many levels of Americans’ lives. Palin and McCain are committed to ending America’s dangerous dependence on foreign sources of energy by producing all-American alternatives. She personally advocated for a new pipeline that will take natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to the lower 48 contiguous states.

Finding a solution to this problem is as important as promoting fair and free trade across the world. Alaska serves as a crucial link and trading partner with Asia; more than half of the state’s exports travel across the Pacific, spurring economic opportunity, growth and development.

Palin represents a new direction for GOP politics – at the state level in Alaska and on the national stage as McCain’s running mate. While Obama could have made an honorable gesture by selecting Senator Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential candidate in recognition of her historic campaign and accomplishments, he instead opted to aggrandize his narcissistic megalomania and confirm his own weak résumé by tapping gaffe-prone Joe Biden, a 36-year veteran of the Senate.

The unfortunate heightened levels of sexist comments (“lipstick on a pig” and “cosmetic saleswoman at Macy’s”) against Palin have not distracted her from championing the right of every woman to pursue a career and still raise a family.

cCain’s selection of Palin rallied the conservative base around his candidacy and launched it into the final weeks of the campaign. But perhaps the most significant impact will be seen in the eventual Republican Party’s re-branding. Unlike their Democratic opponents, McCain and Palin provide American voters with a clear vision in policies to truly bring reform, prosperity and peace to their beloved country.

Carlos Hernandez-Navarro is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and chair of Georgetown Students for McCain – Palin.

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