Thursday, January 10, 2008

Being Right, or Electing a President

Peter Brown, writing in The Politico today, accurately presents the dilemma for conservatives trying to decide whether to support John McCain. McCain the gadfly has certainly managed to offend most conservatives at one time or another. Conservatives must decide, and quickly, whether they prefer the utter powerlessness promised by President Obama or President Clinton; to the chance of electing a sometimes irritating friend who, despite his maverick tendencies -- is basically a friend and has served the country well.
Do conservatives really think that Romney, who could not carry New Hampshire -- next door to his home state -- can be elected President ? Have any of us seen Fred Thompson lately ? Does Mike Huckabee have a plan, beyond campaigning for national pastor, and making wild promises about immigration and taxes that don't have a prayer of being enacted ? What, by the way, do you think the media will do to Huckabee should he wind up as the nominee ? Finally, does anybody really think Rudy Giuliani can attract broad conservative support. . .or survive the kind of attacks the Democrats and the media are going to mount on his personal baggage in the general election ?
Choose wisely friends, the hour is late.

13 comments:

louielouie said...

i've always thought guiliani's campaign was based on political party(republican) rather than philosophy(conservative).
i've thought he was going for broad based support rather than focus group.
in short, if mccain couldn't make it against bush in 2000, and you're happy with bush, why would you vote for mccain this time around. we elected a conservative didn't we?????
bush has served as a conservative has he not????
i think guiliani is going for the heart of the repub party, and if nominated, will appeal to just as many dems as repubs. he won't count on the conservative vote. their vote got us the conservative prez we now have.

El Jefe Maximo said...

This response is going to wander and get off the point for a bit, but I'm in the mood, so there.

I'm still, in general, a Bush supporter. I have quarrels with particular points in his administration: in particular his failure in 2004 and the first half of 06 to insist on results from Rumsfeld in Iraq ("change the numbers or change the faces"); and his failure to veto a spending bill during his firat term. Frankly, I don't like his financing the war with debt, either. I also disagree with him, (and McCain) on immigration.

This said, it's a big country. Arguibly too big -- Michael Lind has argued at other places here, and here for example, that sectionalism is alive and well in America; and I agree with him on that if nothing else. It's hard to get elected President or do much with Congress by sticking too closely to what is conservative. . .the different regional interests do not permit that.

As an aside, I sense, but cannot prove, that much of the conservative distaste for McCain comes not only from his maverick tendencies, but that they (and the maverick aspects of McCain's personality), have regional explanations: McCain is very much a man of the west, and Republicanism today is very Southern.

In any case, in a country this size, with as much regional diversity as exists, and given that the courts, academy and the intelligensis are fundamentally opposed to the cultural and political assumptions of conservativism, I do not think that a perfect conservative is electable. Even were this to happen, he would not get much done, given the ability of 40 votes in the Senate to block anything.

I would that things were different. If we would really have them otherwise, we need to split the country three or four ways, and maybe abolish the Senate and courts -- not going to happen. Alternatively, we can go through life looking for the perfect conservative, which essentially means letting President Obama or President Hillary or whatever we get run everything.

Okay, here's your irrelevant Euro history story for the week. The French king Henri IV, (founder of the House of Bourbon), supposedly said "Paris is worth a mass" -- meaning that if he had to be Catholic to be king, it was okay by him. The throne was the thing, at least for him, and he'd square changing religions with his conscience later.

Many years later, his exiled descendant "Henri V" the Count of Chambord turned down a throne because he wsa too principled to adopt the tricolour flag as opposed to the Bourbon white flag. Henri IV died a king, "Henri V's" royal title remained a pretention, and he died in exile, rendering himself and his cause a historical footnote.

Conservatives can insist on orthodoxy too, and make themselves pure but irrelevant; or realist, and maybe somewhat less than pure, but somewhat more relevant. I wish it was otherwise, but that's not where we are today.

I guess I'm supporting McCain because Paris is worth a Mass. I think McCain is conservative enough, his voting record in Congress certainly says he is, and -- unlike Mayor Guiliani -- I think he actually has a chance of getting elected. McCain's conservative enough.

Yeah, I've had my differences with McCain. Still do. But he can get there. Besides, you don't hire a plumber because you like him.

louielouie said...

i never understood the maverick tag on mccain. i think that is something the media came up with to set the mood or tempo of their reporting of him.
he expresses himself well and says what he thinks. what's maverick about that?
when i started looking at mccain a little skewed was during the supreme court nominations semi-debacle and when i had portions of mccain-feinglod explained to me. i know that the senate is a legislative/representative body and the compromise is the name of the game. but somehow mccain seemed a little to eager to be chummy with the other side of the aisle than someone who was standing up for what he believed in.
now i'm here in south tulsa, i don't and didn't know what was going on inside the senate chambers. so i may be all wet on that gang-of-14 or whatever thing.
i had adopted your position about a pure conservative candidate, not stated as eloquently as you have, many years ago.
what i am dreading, is a repeat of the '96 election.
that just must not be allowed to occur.

louielouie said...

gold
gold
feingold
for crying out loud.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I really hate McCain/Feingold, and you won't ever find me defending it...I think it was possibly the most pernicious piece of legislation enacted in modern times, save for possibly the Immigration Act of 1965. Campaign finance is one of his bugbears.

No question, it does take an obscene amount of money to buy an office, and trying to reform the process is lunacy to begin with.

But I'm one of those who thinks that that's exactly what the politicians do -- buy office; and the lobbyists in turn buy politicians. The people who think this could ever be reformed I think are a bit touched in the head. I could care less about campaign finance, but the speech implications of that Act trouble me.

I was hacked-off about the Gang of 14, and if you go back in here a ways, you'd find that out. In retrospect, I was wrong about that...they got through some good judges, albeit at the expense of some others. But the Democrats had enough votes to prevent their confirmation in any case. If you don't have 60 Senators (3/5ths)-- sufficent to cut off a filibuster (i.e. invoke Cloture), you are NOT going to get what you want all the time, or even most of it if relations are as hostile as they are today. As long as the minority stays united, as the Democrats did when the Republicans had the majority -- and the Republicans are now, you have to be willing to deal. The Democrats are finding that out now.

All that said, I still think McCain's better than the other serious contenders, given conditions as they exist today.

I half think McCain/Feingold got through because so much of the Congress was sure the Supreme Court would kill it -- and they could meanwhile posture to the rubes (us) about being for campaign finance reform. But the House of Lords, er, Supreme Court didn't read the script.

A repeat of 1996 must be prevented if it is in our power, and I think McCain is the best chance for that. BUT, so much depends on conditions, which are distinctly unfavorable. To me, electing the President is almost a secondary objective this year. I hope it is possible, I think it is, with a little luck. But the main objective must be to hold 41 Senate seats when the new Congress convenes.

hank_F_M said...

Of course the problem is that Bush put together a coalition. Your basic conservatives were only one part of it. Ignoring the war for a monument. By the end of the first tem he had gotten every thing that all sides of the coalition could agree with. The Democrats held enough discipline that few Democrats crossed fences to support programs that they were in agreement with so he could not pass legislation that most but not all of the collation agrees with. So no one is happy.

Some, such as the so-called “neocons” are not so much conservatives as expelled for the main part of the left. Not really believing in fiscal restraint, the family values of the social conservatives, or even traditional conservative defense policies. There ideas are most often better than the mainstream of the left but they are not conservatives.

And none of the candidates has enough umph to rebuild a coalition with even the moderate goal of stopping the left's agenda.

This time I think it is "being President"; whoever it is won’t be able to implement a conservative agenda, just stop the encroachment while a new genuine conservative coalition is built. Just "being right" enough that they won't sell out.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Hank,

I don't disagree.

The bigger the coalition, the less of any substance that it can accomplish. Something Right of Center is the best we can hope for at the moment, given the size of this country and the composition of the electorate.

Unfortunately, the same is not true to the Left because it has too many institutional advantages at present. Besides the media, there is the academy, the legal profession (it's institutionally Left), the helping professions, etc. Moreover, so much of the new money (finance and technology) is young new rich, tempermentally more comfortable with liberalism than with anything smacking of social conservatism. Conservatives have less of an infrastructure.

This is where the homework is needed: where a conservative coalition and intelligensia must be built up from the ground up. More than anything, the Right must be made applicable to the conditions of globalization and high technology. You are quite right: until we acquire institutions, we are just stopping encroachment and limiting the damage.

louielouie said...

a few essays ago you commented on the tag "republicans for obama". what i thought of at the time and my response to your immediate comment is "you should see what i hear". not a typo.
a while back you explained to myself the reason for the immediate bushate, which i printed and passed along to some of my clients and immediately lost some.
whatever.
in short, aside from myself not being able to express myself as adequately as EJM< I, some of the things i hear in this store #1 confirms my suspicion my store is a blue magnet, and #2 has me so confused i constantly have to lurk at KoC to maintain some degree of proper bearing.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Funny, the proprietor of my local liquor emporium is a fairly blue state sort of guy. Still a fine fellow, but he probably feels right at home in my area. I live in a somewhat yuppified, swellafied neighborhood (too many lawyers) that only sends a Republican congressman to Washington because its tacked on to one of the reddest neighborhoods in the United States.

I suspect much of the attraction of Obama is the fact that he's new, and relatively unknown. I have confidence that as time passes and the new wears off, familiarity will breed a little more contempt, or at least, more questions for Senator Obama than he has hitherto had to endure.

Moreover, race is a factor for some people, although the Right Thinking People will hasten to deny it. There are white people who want to vote for a black person just to show that they aren't racist, irrespective of the candidate's positions or opinions; and then there are white people who are racists who wouldn't vote for a black candidate even if he agreed with them perfectly and Jesus Christ on a Starship said to -- whatever they'll tell you to your face. Both of those two groups, to me, are pea-wits, but this is a factor.

Senator Obama may still may be elected President: he would most assuredly be the most liberal individual ever to hold the office. . . I don't know though, so much depends on events.

H said...

I'm a Fred guy. I think he's the only 'actual' conservative in the race and I don't understand why he doesn't have more support.

That said, McCain was my second choice for a while. He's right on the war, and I think in a crisis he'd be able to make the tough decision and do the right thing. Other than that though I don't agree with him on much of anything, and I don't know how I'd feel about a Hillary-McCain election. I know he has some appeal to moderates and independents but; 1, I don't just how much appeal he has and; 2, I don't know if electability is enough to support him.

Andrewdb said...

Yes, McCain is right on the war, but very wrong on a lot of other stuff - how about Amnesty, for example. That is enough for me to vote against him.

You already talked about McCain/Feingold.

He's good on the 2d Amendment, though.

I would rather see Fred do well.

I do not see McCain as a Westerner (vs Southerner). He doesn't seem to be all that much about limited government - which kind of defines Westerner for me (says the native Californian).

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