Second, though it is hardly imaginable that such a thing is necessary, maybe now is a good time to mention that Sarah Palin is not, in fact, the first woman to be nominated for the Vice-Presidency of the United States. The first was Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat, named as the running mate of Walter Mondale in 1984. It is not surprising that the Republicans are 25 years behind the curve in matters of demographics, nor is it surprising that their choice smacks rather flagrantly of pandering ("Hey, allegedly disaffected Hillary Clinton voters! Check this out! She's got far less integrity, experience and ethics, but check out that vagina!"); this is the way things get done in the exciting world of the right, where the business of interacting with people who don't look like all of their presidential candidates is a slow and difficult one that they'd honestly rather not have to deal with. It may or may not be instructive to recall that during the 1984 race, the National Organization for Women, who had a pretty rough time of it during the Reagan years, got wind of the fact that a woman was being considered for the VP slot, and stalked Mondale for several weeks, including at a major campaign appearance. Of course, at a certain level, they were right: the time was right for a woman VP, and the women's movement had taken a beating that deserved revenge in the form of a high-profile move just such as nominating Ferraro. But the constant pressure and the shouting down at big public appearances ensured only two outcomes: Mondale would appear to have caved or Mondale would have appeared to have scorned the female vote. It didn't really matter in the end, as Mondale would get trounced by one of the biggest landslides in electoral history by a wildly popular Reagan riding the crest of jingoistic sentiment; and only four years later, the Republicans would start their own Grand Experiment in Pandering (George H. W. Bush, before choosing sponge-brained himbo J. Danforth Quayle as his running mate, was asked about his VP pick and said "I haven't chosen her yet"). But it's something worth remembering, on this 'historical' occasion.
Naturally, the right is falling all over itself in an attempt to prove that Palin is the next Iron-Drawers Maggie Thatcher. It would probably be best for both sides if they just dropped the whole 'experience' angle, which now hurts both sides; after all, the Democrats have just spent a few weeks doing a decent job arguing that experience doesn't matter, and they'd look pretty silly if they turned around and argued that it did. But the Republicans, who have just spent a few months arguing that experience does matter, are now stuck trying to defend a vice-presidential candidate whose name they might have well gotten by clicking the 'Random Article' feature on Wikipedia. This had led them to some, well, comical choices. First there's the "Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard" argument, which might carry a bit more water if (a) Palin had ever had cause to actually deploy them and (b) they were our first line of defense against the Soviets. But as it stands, they're just leaving themselves open to some wise-ass pointing out that the Alaskan National Guard numbers slightly more than the active military forces of Luxembourg and slightly less than those of Trinidad and Tobago. Equally curious is the "executive" argument, which states that Palin, whose entire political experience consists of being mayor of a town with less people than Joe Biden's graduating class at the University of Delaware and being governor of a state with less people than Barack Obama's senatorial district in Chicago, is in fact more experienced, because her experience was as an executive. This is an interesting argument and also might be a lot more convincing if it didn't seem so much like someone arguing that he, as the President and CEO of Billy Bob's Lawnmower Repair and Donut Shed since 2007, is far more experienced than someone who has only been a senior vice-president at IBM. It will be highly enjoyable to see what other tortured analogies they come up with to establish Palin as the most experienced experiencer in the history of experience.
Finally, because I know that visual aids are so important, I'd like to present the following chart. I know that a lot of people are really happy that a woman has been nominated for the VIP slot, but the difference between pandering and progress is that you not only nominate someone of the right demography, but of the right ideology. Far be it from me to talk anyone out of their enthusiasm, but there's a reason that black people didn't rush to support the presidential campaign of Alan Keyes.
Likely Reaction of Arab-Americans at the Announcement of an Arab Candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize:
Likely Reaction if Arab Candidate Was Osama bin-Laden:
Likely Reaction of Gays at the Announcement of an Gay Candidate for Senate:
Likely Reaction if Gay Candidate Was Roy Cohn:
Likely Reaction of Black Voters at the Announcement of an Black Candidate for President:
Likely Reaction if Black Candidate Was Uncle Ruckus: