12 July 2007

State of the election

After holding steady for months during his supposedly-damaging support for the Iraq campaign, John McCain's poll numbers have abruptly imploded during the battle over the illegal-alien amnesty bill, of which he was a key supporter. Pollsters are starting to raise the "indelicate question" of what happens when he either drops out of the race or at least ceases to be a real factor. These figures show that Giuliani would be the main beneficiary -- not surprising since McCain and Giuliani have both run as secular candidates relatively indifferent to the "social issues" (that is, religious obsessions) of the Christian Right, and thus have arguably been dividing the secular Republican vote between themselves.

Here's how I see the Presidential race now. Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton has consistently maintained a huge lead, and barring some implausible cataclysm, she will be nominated. The Republican contest is much less predictable, given the smaller and less-consistent lead of the front-runner (Giuliani), the discomfort with him among the Christian Right, and the surge of interest in Fred Thompson. If the Republicans nominate Giuliani, he'll win the general election. If they nominate anyone else, Clinton will win.

Last year I argued that it would be a bad idea for Hillary Clinton to become President; she is too polarizing a figure, and with both Houses also held by Democrats, the right would be totally shut out of the federal government -- a situation as unhealthy as that which prevailed during 2000-2006, when the left was totally shut out.

But it's now the right themselves who will determine whether this argument has validity. If the Republicans nominate Giuliani, it will be a sign that the right has accepted secularism and prefers to emphasize the area where it has the most to contribute -- strength in the fight against Islamic imperialism. If they nominate any of their other serious candidates, it will signal that they still cling to their vision of a Christianized America where government policy on abortion, stem-cell research, homosexuality, and personal freedom in general will be determined by ancient religious taboos and dogmas. The choice is theirs. If they opt for the latter course, a few years of total exclusion from power might actually be the only thing that can shock them back into the real world.

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