Friday, October 31, 2008

Premature Obituaries


I'm not personally going to declare a winner until after the election, but it's interesting to read the premature obituaries being penned about the McCain campaign and the Republican Party.

On the right, Clark Stooksbury describes the Republican Party as the "Party of Delusion", calling for an honest assessment of the reasons for the party's failure from inside, but expressing doubts about Republican-oriented conservatives' ability to do so:
A good example is this post from Robert Stacy McCain, who was engaged in some preemptive complaining about media spin of next week’s election. McCain describes the GOP as “the party of low taxes, limited government, traditional values and strong defense.” Only the part about taxes is accurate. the GOP would be more accurately described as the party of tax cuts, debt, cronyism, aggressive war and cultural resentment. The formula that worked for a couple of election cycles, but the party’s chickens have come home to roost.
In the referenced post, McCain also seems to expect that (the other) McCain will lose, but has words of criticism only for the mainstream media. Dan Larison is more in tune with Stooksbury,
Endorsing Obama is a vote of no confidence in the Republican Party, but in a weird way it is also an expression of what is probably utterly misguided hope that the Republicans will learn from the defeat and adjust to new political realities.
He seems to regard it as foolish to vote for Obama to "punish the GOP" out of hope "that there is some small chance that the GOP might change its ways", but presents no alternative. If you concede, as Larison does, that from a conservative standpoint "the GOP has failed so badly that it has made the unthinkable [a vote for Obama] mundane and ordinary", how could you possibly justify a Republican vote? While I recognize that there are third parties, and would not be surprised if Larison ends up voting for a third party candidate, the fact remains that our system is heavily biased against third parties and, in this election and into the foreseeable future, the two dominant parties will remain dominant.

On the left, Paul Krugman speculates on what the Republican Party will look like ("assuming that McCain doesn’t pull an upset"), suggesting,
the GOP that’s left after this election will probably be even further off in right field, even further out of touch with the rest of the country, than before.
If the Republican Party heeds those conservative intellectuals who call for it to reexamine its platform and priorities, that might be avoided. Or not. There's a possibility that if various conservative factions were invited to try to impose their brand of ideological purity on the Republican Party, the ensuing bloodshed would actually harm party unity, or that the bizarre, hybrid consensus version of conservatism emerging from the process would be a cure worse than the disease. Also, the branding issue would remain, as even a fruitful meeting of the party's best minds would have to overcome recent experience - "We're the Republican Party, and this time we really mean all those things we've been telling you we stand for all these years.... Trust us!"

But again, I'm not going to write the party off before it even loses, or after. Similar things could have been said about the Democratic Party many, many times over the past thirty years. They could have been said a year ago. No, actually, they have been - for most of the past year we've been hearing about how this election should be easy for the Democratic Party, how Obama can't "close the deal" and how the Democratic Party's only real strength lies in its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If Obama weren't ahead in the polls, people would be saying them right now. If Obama loses, well, I don't have to tell you, do I.

When a party seems to be destined to lose, its pessimists expect the party to be reduced to ashes and its optimists expect a phoenix to rise, but a more likely outcome is that the party somehow manages to hobble itself together, keeps its "party faithful" in the fold, and gets the benefit both of time making people forget its past, and the other party's overreaching making them once again seem like the "lesser of two evils" to the block of "swing voters" that ultimately decides elections.

If I were to speculate as to what future path the Republican Party might take that would help keep it in the minority, at risk of trying to get rich by overestimating the intelligence of our nation's people, it would be the path endorsed by Robert Stacy McCain, who offers an unabashed "defense of ignorance". For example, McCain argues,
Palin's honest ignorance of presidential-level issues was held up as evidence that she is, or was, unprepared for the vice-presidency - as if years of studying such issues were in itself qualification for the office. Evidence contradicts this idea.
Even if we assume that "evidence" contradicts the idea that years of serious study of foreign policy better qualify somebody to serve as Vice President, that does not automatically mean that foreign policy ignorance is an equal qualification to foreign policy study, let alone make ignorance a qualification for the job. And it's more than being unschooled - somebody who has lived a lifetime demonstrating disinterested in a particular subject, to the point that in her forties she is described by her supporters as "ignorant", is unlikely to ever achieve proficiency. Is it possible? Sure, but that's a gamble. McCain's observation that Palin is "a very popular and for all I know a very good governor" is fascinating - before urging the party to jump on her bandwagon, might it not make sense for him to learn enough about her that he doesn't have to qualify his endorsement of her record?
Sarah Palin is extraordinarily shrewd and is a natural as a politician. She figured out early on that some people on the McCain campaign are profoundly incompetent (hello, Tucker Bounds) and that other people on the McCain campaign are selfish and arrogant beyond words (you know who you are, sweetheart).
So if you can identify Tucker Bounds - this Tucker Bounds - and Michael Goldfarb - this Michael Goldfarb - as less than the best, you're "shrewd"? That seems like a pretty low bar - as low as the ground level bar set for Palin in the Vice Presidential debate. So really, what's the reason McCain likes (the other) McCain's pick so much?
Sarah's shortcomings on Aug. 29 have been rapidly remedied, and by 2011 could be remedied entirely. Considering that she is the strongest, most viable alternative to Jeb Bush, I would suggest that some of her conservative critics should try to befriend her, and not merely join the sneering snobs.
The only other choice being Jeb Bush, and the Bush brand having been burned so badly by his brother that, despite his having what appear to be far superior credentials, experience, intellect and interest in national and international affairs, you should saddle up the unknown horse and hope for the best?

Truly, J.S. McCain has a limited memory if he believes that the presidential nominee or eventual president can be spotted four years out. The Republican party doesn't have to hope, so much as it should expect new leadership to emerge over the next four years. If Palin turns out to be the best of the bunch, without wishing to caricature her, diminish her accomplishments, or underestimate her political skills and charisma, the party has a lot to worry about... assuming it loses on Tuesday.

But again, the election ain't over 'till it's over.

1 comment:

  1. It's not an original thought, but if the pollsters actually have this election wrong, they're not worth much.

    ReplyDelete