In many respects, Sarah Palin represents the best of our great country. As mother of five and executive leader, star athlete and beauty pageant champion, secular politician and religious devotee, Palin has successfully molded herself into a complex and multifaceted embodiment of the United States of America, a small-town PTA activist turned populist national reformer living the American dream. Arguably, she mirrors Barack Obama in this sense, a similarly profound – and ostensibly paradoxical – picture of America, its people, promise and hope. While Palin and Obama may share little in common politically, they both personify a momentous shift in this country against an intransigent status quo, as well as the historic de-relegation of women and African-Americans to the fringes of national politics.
In spite of Palin’s undeniable appeal to many Americans, it is the convergence of these latter qualities – secular politician and religious devotee – that has left many of us scratching our heads in recent days. To what extent will her own unique religious experiences and convictions – or more to the point, her experiences and convictions within the context of a parochial Evangelical Christian milieu – drive her political policies, which could then determine our country’s actions in diverse contexts like the Iraq War or Alaska pipeline? Will Palin’s political choices reflect her personal religious beliefs, beliefs the vast majority of Americans do not share? Will she subject her executive decision-making and the country’s – and globe’s – well-being to these particular faith-based opinions? And most importantly, as a national leader, will she demonstrate the ability to set aside these beliefs in order to represent all Americans – including those who do not share her own faith background – and forge broad coalitions?