Throughout this summer’s kickoff to the general election campaign, John McCain and the Republicans, given their stance on the wrong side of almost every major issue, sought aggressively and unsurprisingly to make this election about Barack Obama. The GOP, envious of an “enthusiasm gap” and Obama’s oratorical gifts, cast the Illinois senator as nothing more than an elitist celebrity outsider, criticized his lack of experience, and derided what they called “the audacity of hype.” Despite these disparagements, it’s John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin to be his running mate, and the more recent GOP arguments against Obama, that look positively audacious.

In need of a spark after Obama’s successful Democratic convention and his own “how many houses” gaffe, McCain blinked and made a 3 a.m. phone call to the little-known governor from Alaska. Since then he and the Right have been on offense, propping up Palin and her supposed qualifications against the demonic, liberal media and its insistence on questioning whether the two-year governor and former mayor of Wasilla, Ala. (population 9,000), is ready to be one 72-year-old heartbeat from the presidency. While this isn’t much of a surprise, what’s been most notable is the gall demonstrated by the GOP in its militant defense of Palin.

cCain persists in assailing Obama’s judgment, despite the fact that it was he who harriedly offered the number-two spot on his ticket to a woman he’d met just once. The Republicans claim that Palin’s one incomplete gubernatorial term is sufficient national experience for the VP slot, even as they continue to mock Obama for his nearly two-year-longer term in the Senate. During its convention, the GOP aggressively belittled Obama for his selfless and non-political experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, despite hailing Palin’s time on the Wasilla PTA as an indication of old-fashioned, small-town values.

The same conservative chattering class that agitatedly accused Hillary Clinton of being a whiner and exploiting her femininity when she brought up media sexism during the primaries is now self-righteously accusing the media of sexism for scrutinizing Palin. And the same “family values” crowd that usually rails against poor parenting as the number-one cause of teen pregnancy seems to be OK with the job done by this 44-year-old soon-to-be grandma.

The same party that accuses Barack Obama of lacking specifics didn’t have much to offer in the way of policy ideas during its own convention. If you watched it, you heard a lot of attacks on Obama, a lot about Sarah Palin’s ability to field dress a moose, and a lot about John McCain’s own compelling story, which continued to emphasize the defunct characterization of McCain as a political maverick. But there was not a whole lot in the way of concrete ideological distinctions between a prospective McCain presidency and the last eight years under George W. Bush. Perhaps that’s why the onetime “party of ideas” chose not to share any.

The party that accuses Obama of being an “empty suit” is running almost entirely on the biographies of both members of its ticket. Palin will try to get women to vote for her because she’s a working mother, even though the policies she advocates would not indeed be very good for working mothers. McCain will try to convince voters that his Hemingway-esque sense of honor far outweighs the fact that, by his own admission, he doesn’t know much about the economy. And while Obama’s own meteoric rise may be attributable to his biography, he and Joe Biden seem to be the ones running on issues in this campaign. By picking Palin, McCain has staked his hopes on the notion that by appearing to be a little bit different, he can pass off the same failed Republican policies as acceptable.

The GOP has had its chance. The one thing that continues to encourage me looking at the Republicans in this campaign is that their party looks just like the past. Thousands of old white people on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center chanting “drill, baby, drill” (for more oil) appears fundamentally at odds with the honest direction of this country.

As college students, we’re representative of an emerging generation that values creative solutions over snarky attack politics, that believes in alternative energy and health care for every American. John McCain may have looked like an appealing leader in the 1950s, but it’s Barack Obama who seems to share our understanding of the challenges of the 21st century. It will be up to this very generation to help elect the right leader for these times, right now.

att Buccelli is a sophomore in the College.

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