I really loathe politics, and have mostly tried to avoid writing about it. But finally something interesting has happened, and it’s worth a brief comment.
In physics we like to talk about symmetry. Conservation laws and symmetry are intimately related, and you can learn a lot about one by studying the other. One of the more interesting examples of this is parity. Parity basically means reversing left and right – if you do an experiment and then rebuild the entire thing backwards, everything happens as you’d expect. If you take a picture of a physical process and flip the picture in Photoshop, the resulting picture is still a picture of a perfectly valid physical situation. But it wasn’t too long ago that it was discovered that certain subatomic interactions in fact are not symmetric under parity. This was a huge deal, and resulted in a small revolution in our understanding of particle physics.
There’s sort of an equivalent symmetry breaking in politics. Take two otherwise precisely identical candidates, except make one a man and one a woman. Their political fortunes will not be the same – politics is not invariant under sex-reversal symmetry. And the consequences of this symmetry breaking are why McCain chose Sarah Palin.
Here’s my reasoning on why it will probably help him much more than any of the standard choices like Romney, Pawlenty, Ridge, etc.
1. It will appeal to women – especially to the all-important undecided/moderate women who supported Hillary out of solidarity.
2. It will appeal to men – let’s face it, being attractive doesn’t hurt. Could a man shaped like Taft ever be nominated today regardless of his political views? I doubt it and it’s a shame. But political reality is political reality.
3. It will appeal to disaffected conservatives – McCain was never popular with the conservative base. Sarah Palin is considerably more popular among movement conservatives.
4. It reduces the “Let’s make history” appeal of Obama – now electing the Republican ticket will produce a demographic first as well.
Does she have disadvantages, like lack of experience? Absolutely. Do those disadvantages outweigh the above? Not a chance. We have to face the facts: everyone who cares about issues and qualifications has already made up their minds one way or another. VP picks are about pulling in the rest, and Palin will do that in spades.
I’m Matt Springer, and I approve you thinking that my analysis is completely lacking in data. It’s pure guesswork. We’ll find out how accurate it is soon enough.