McCain And A Convulted Primary

By: Robert E. Meyer

My own thoughts on the primary election season are a mixed bag to say the least.

Most pundits have acknowledged from the beginning that there is no true Reagan-like candidate running under the Republican banner, though many attempt to affirm that mantle.

I suppose that shouldn’t be too surprising, since political icons like Reagan come along only about once in a generation. Perhaps it is a disservice to hold anyone to that standard, and express profound dissatisfaction when they fall short of it.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney was the candidate anointed by many influential conservatives as the closest thing to the desired nominee, but now that he is out of the race, many are left with the February blues.

John McCain came out of nowhere to become the front runner and has a virtual lock on this campaign. That in spite of the fact that only a few months ago, his campaign appeared dead in the water, and that he has been staunchly opposed by many popular conservative media figures. They have pointed out that McCain’s opposition to the Bush tax reductions, his stance of campaign finance reform, and his immigration policy, place him politically and ideologically closer to Ted Kennedy then the Republican platform.

All the talking down of McCain presents some real problems for conservatives. What exactly do right-wingers who oppose McCain do now that he has virtually sewn up the nomination?

Probably some will sit the election out, reasoning that a Democrat will be elected to the presidency, and Democrats will gain a large congressional majority. They are counting on the belief that the state of the union will become so bad that people will vote for a diametrical change in 2012. They are the people who say “We had to have Jimmy Carter in ’76 to get Ronald Reagan in ’80.” I think that is dangerous thinking. Many thought Bill Clinton would be a one-term president and look what happened. The past 15 years of governing have made some people believe that the Democrats are the new party of fiscal responsibility.

Some conservatives will say that McCain with all his shortcoming is better than any Democrat trying to move forward with a quasi-socialist agenda. They might also decide that McCain has never wavered on terrorism or the war, and ultimately, all the other issues are subordinate to and contingent upon, a free America.

Finally, there is a camp that believes fidelity to principle at all costs is nothing short of a requirement. These people are highly principled and loath compromise of any sort. This faction will likely vote for a minor party candidate. I believe that Ron Paul may head in this direction in the next several months, and he may bring a sizeable minority with him. So again, there is a great dilemma for conservatives, to say the least.

John McCain can probably withstand a partial fracture of the conservative base, since he runs toward the middle he can get the votes of moderates, the perpetually undecided, and even a score of cross-over voters. Basically, he is far from a conservative dream, but might be the only “Republican” candidate who can win, for what it’s worth.

Obviously, the surprise on the primary season is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. A month ago, I thought McCain might choose someone like Joe Lieberman as running mate, were he to become the nominee of the party. Now I have to wonder if Huckabee might be a better ticket, because he can offer support of constituencies where McCain runs weak, particularly among evangelicals and southern social conservatives. Of course Huckabee downplays this possibility, saying he’s not interested, but considering McCain’s age, the vice-presidential selection would be in a good position to take the reins in 2012. Huckaby should wind up with a place at the table in surviving in the race for so long.

In the Democratic party, you have more of a contest. This may be partially due to the proportional allocation of delegates, and the people who are negative on another Clinton, regardless of all else.

You have principle in Obama, versus the pragmatism of Hillary Clinton, who will say or do whatever it takes to win. In either case, you take a giant leap toward socialism. Obama is an articulate, passionate candidate, who has captured the imagination of many. I have no beef against him personally, my problem is that I just can’t vote for the democratic platform. The ideology and not the personality is the problem. While many Republicans have been corrupt or major disappointments to conservatism, I generally have no problem with the platform, if only someone will stand on it. I think many Democrats have a favorite, but are more likely than Republicans to be happy with either of their candidates.

I should mention that up until 2000, I usually voted for a minor party candidate. Ron Paul is right on many issues, but I don’t think he takes the terrorism issue seriously enough. We can’t simply be an isolationist country, ignoring the rest of the world in the wake of contemporary events. Paul has attracted a wide range of supporters, some very principled and articulate, but some who behave boorishly. It is that segment often put on display by the media.

From a standpoint of personality, I like Mike Huckabee, though he probably lacks in foreign policy experience. Many conservatives say that Huckabee, like McCain has too many strains of liberalism to be seriously supported by conservatives, but I like most of the positions he himself has affinity with.

So what will I do? Will it be principle at all costs, or the choice among the least of evils? Ultimately I don’t know yet. The rest of the primary process might settle the question for me.

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