08 February 2008

What McCain's victory means

Barring some very unlikely event, the Republicans now have their nominee -- and unfortunately, McCain will be a stronger candidate in the general election than most of the other contenders they had. His relative moderation on some issues will make him more appealing to centrist voters than, say, Huckabee or Romney would have been.

It must be said that a McCain Presidency would be somewhat less disastrous than an administration headed by any of the other top Republican candidates. He is better on stem-cell research and global warming than most of them are. But he is just as bad on abortion rights -- worse than Giuliani or Romney, in fact, if one compares their long-expressed views -- and he's the worst of any of the major candidates on illegal immigration (with the possible exception of Obama). As a Republican, any political debts he owes would pull rightward, not leftward. There's no reason to think he would be better than any other Republican on the crucial issue of Supreme Court nominations, or on separation of church and state. His notorious explosive temper raises questions about whether he is mentally stable enough for the Presidency.

And there is still the deeper point which I've alluded to before: the Republican party needs a crushing defeat to trigger the internal struggle which will either break it apart once and for all or else force it to repudiate the fundamentalist crazies and return to a sane form of conservatism. It is unhealthy for our country to have a two-party system in which one party is largely in the grip of dangerously-delusional fanatics and bigots.

So the need to fight for a Democratic victory is as urgent as ever.

Some might argue the Republicans are doomed because of their own internal factionalism. I certainly hope this is true, and there is evidence pointing that way; many fundamentalists and other hard-line conservatives, denouncing McCain as a "liberal" (!), are threatening to sit out the election or vote for a third candidate. Much as I'd love to see them make the same stupid mistake that some on the left made in 2000 with Nader, we can't count on it.

What, after all, would the hard-line rightists have to gain from such behavior? There are only two possible scenarios. If they refuse to vote for McCain and he loses, the moderate right will blame them for the catastrophe (as they see it) of a Democratic Presidency. If they refuse to vote for McCain and he wins anyway, they will have proven that the Republican party can win elections without kowtowing to them. Neither outcome is good for them. It may be, of course, that they will be too blinded by emotion and ideology to think so rationally. But we can't depend on that. It's quite possible that their loathing of Clinton and Obama will draw them together in spite of themselves.

We do have many advantages. The most disastrous Presidency in living memory has made the Republicans widely unpopular. The huge difference in turnout for the primaries shows which side has the edge in enthusiasm. A Nader-like Bloomberg run is looking less likely. Ultimately, the only way the other side can win this thing is if our side blows it. Let's make sure that doesn't happen.

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3 Comments:

Blogger the chaplain said...

I think McCain is the most formidable candidate the Republicans can field right now, even if they're too dense to recognize that fact. The Democrats can beat him, but it won't be as easy as it might have been with another opponent.

I'd love to see the Republican party disintegrate and re-build into something that upholds traditional conservative values. The current coalition of warhawks of two different kinds, neo-conservative and theocratic, is terrifying. I would be surprised if the religious right actually went off on its own. They have to know there's no way they can win anything on their own. It's in their own best interests to try to remain within the party as a large, influential block of voters. What's best for the RR, however, is not best for the party. The Republican party has to find a way to minimize the RR's influence within its ranks. A crushing defeat may provide the incentive to do so.

08 February, 2008 05:52  
Blogger John Evo said...

The most recent poll shows Hillary in a dead tie with McCain with Obama besting him 48-41... for what it's worth.

I know. Don't even say it. All I basically take from it is that Hillary would have a tougher time. She might actually mobilize the conservatives behind McCain.

08 February, 2008 23:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I've seen those polls, of course, but I think they just reflect the fact that Hillary is a much better-known figure, "warts and all", while people are still responding to Obama on the basis of his newness and idealistic rhetoric. Hillary has much better command of policy and substantive issues, and I think she would do better against a Republican in the long slog of the general-election campaign, with most of the public finally paying close attention, than Obama would.

I also think Hillary would make a much better President than Obama would, even if she might face a slightly tougher time getting elected in the first place.

09 February, 2008 03:16  

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