Sarah Palin Is the New Clarence Thomas

The political logic behind George Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential candidate are the same. Thomas was the second African-American Supreme Court Justice, but the first Republican. Sarah Palin is the third female candidate for national office who might well become President.

In each case, the Democrats did it first, with someone unquestionably outstanding: Thurgood Marshall and Hillary Clinton (plus a little of Geraldine Ferraro, two decades before her time). The Republican response was to pick a hard-line conservative from the right demographic group, someone smart, ambitious, and who pales badly in comparison with the person who broke the glass ceiling for them. Their selection was driven by a crass and demeaning (but so far correct) calculation that being black or female would give them a substantial free pass from criticism on their records.

But at least—and here we should all be grateful—it makes the principle bipartisan. Minorities can serve on the Supreme Court; women can be president. It took the Republicans far too long, but they’ve now embraced these ideas with their deeds, as well as their words. Sarah Palin is not the woman who should be our first female President, but her selection—like Hillary’s much greater accomplishment before it—makes that road an easier one for the woman who should and will be.