With the possible spoiler of Mike Huckabee, it’s clear that John McCain is set to be the candidate the Democrats need to beat in November. The irony of the ongoing battle between Hillary and Obama is that, policy-wise, they just aren’t that different. There were some real differences between the Republicans, but those differences are not what McCain seems to be gearing up to run on. He is all about Iraq.
McCain has to convince hardline conservatives that he’s their guy. Why? Because he has occasionally backed some responsible legislation, like McCain-Feingold. He refused to sugarcoat our waning industrial possibilities while campaigning in Michigan. He has spoken positively about amnesty programs for illegal immigrants. He has not always been a friend to Big Business. True Red Republicans of the Bush League see the potential for fiscal treason in McCain—that he might raise taxes, control campaign spending, or propose, back, and sign Democratic-sounding legislation that would take the country toward *gasp* Socialism.
I have a hard time squaring complaints from anyone that McCain is somehow not a fiscal conservative when Bush just put forward a three-point-one TRILLION dollar budget (with the largest slice for defense spending since WWII). It just goes to show, all the rhetoric about Democratic profligacy is really just a complaint that the Dems spend the money on things the Republicans don’t like. It’s not the money, it’s the programs.
Setting that aside, though, McCain obviously doesn’t think he can sway them all. So he’s about to start campaigning hard on the pitfalls of an Iraq withdrawal. I will wait for the P-word to rear its ugly torso—Patriotism. The suggestion will be made that anyone wishing to pull out is somehow not patriotic. We saw this under Bush, aspersions cast on some of the most loyal, patriotic, and demonstrably courageous people who suggested that maybe this war was a bad idea and that, furthermore, we more or less screwed it up by going in blind, deaf, and predetermined.
I hear echoes of the Sixties all over again, and of all the people who should know better, it is John McCain. (“Pull out…doesn’t sound manly to me, Bub. I say leave it in there till the job is done and they’re thoroughly messed up.”)
The problem is, this may well play for the American voter. When we have serious doubts, we tend to stick with what we’re doing rather than risk change. We have to have our faces rubbed in the muck of bad decision-making before we finally say—in sufficient numbers to matter—enough is enough. I am not sanguine about the political maturity of the American people.
And the thing is, we aren’t getting our faces rubbed in it. We’re adapting. Gasoline is high, the American industrial base is shrinking, we have infrastructure problems galore, but we’re making accommodations and doing fine, thank you. People complain, but by and large we haven’t actually lost anything that matters. So much of this debate is still in the realm of hypotheticals, theories, ideas, and potentials.
So we look to the Democratic candidates and what do we see? One old school politician who would probably do a fine enough job and maybe make a few worthwhile changes, mainly around the edges, and one young firebrand who is promising Big Changes. And a serious look at their policies shows that, really, they differ by degrees, not ideas. It’s going to devolve into a popularity and demographics battle. Which barrier do we want to break first? Gender or race? And underlying that, is the question no one wants to ask: does it really matter anymore?
In my misbegotten youth, I used to be what they call a Single Issue Voter. Was a time I voted against anyone who wanted to erode the Second Amendment. Yes, I was one of those Right to Bear Arms purists. I had bought into the argument that an armed populace kept the government in line and the first step towards tyranny is to disarm the population at large. There’s truth to that in history, but today, here, in this country, it’s a rather weak argument. Power doesn’t work that way. Not to say it couldn’t, but for now it simply doesn’t.
I could also argue that anyone wishing to tamper with the Constitution was de facto untrustworthy. Which may also be true. People doing good for me whether I want it or not is loathesome. Make the subject anything but guns and you see this immediately.
But the truth is, single issue voting only means you’re not informed, interested, or intellectually capable of understanding multiple issues. Or it means you don’t care about anything else, which is just as bad. It is stupid.
As it has transpired, most of the Second Amendment purists voted into office in the last forty years have also brought with them a whole suite of ideologies I cannot abide. They are, many of them, the natural constituency of the George W. Bush League. That single issue—preserving an unquestioned right to own, carry, and by implication use something which I, in fact, do not own or carry—comes packaged with people whose other policy positions I find absurd or dangerous.
The word Balance comes to mind. Tricky at the best of times.
McCain will campaign on a single issue. Oh, there will be other policy positions he’ll talk about and want to deal with, but at present it looks like he’s going to threaten America with the awful prospect of “pulling out” if we vote for the Democrats. He will polarize people over a Single Issue that will push all the rest to the side in an emotional gambit to convince us to—wait for it, he may yet use the phrase—Stay The Course.
In such an environment, the first casualty is reason. You can’t even get close to truth without that.
I would really like to see the two Democratic front-runners make a deal, put together a ticket that can roll over this irrationalism. The Republicans are once again demonstrating their major strength—they’re forming ranks and closing up behind a candidate and they will see it through as a group. For a bunch of people who profess to believe in American Individuality, they sure can cast it aside quickly enough for their Cause. Democrats traditionally devour each other.
The one factor we have left to see whether McCain has a reasonable shot or not is who he picks as a running mate. Because that will indicate who he thinks his successor will be, ought to be. As it appears right now, if Hilary and Obama made a deal and ran together, it would be the best of all possible worlds. Either one of them is acceptable to me.
I suppose I should say whether I think we should get out of Iraq. Saying— believing—that we should never have gone in to begin with is not the same thing. Now it would be like making a mess of a paraplegic’s kitchen, then leaving without cleaning up the mess. So I guess I’m forced into the opinion that we would be ill-advised to simply pull out until Iraq really does have a security base that works well enough. Otherwise, they will be divvied up by the various factions outside their borders. Iran has, in fact, an old score to settle, and they are more dangerous to future peace in the region than Iraq ever was. Saddam ultimately was just greedy. The Iranian hierarchy are Inspired.
But that doesn’t mean I’d vote for John McCain—all the other things he’s bringing to the table are things I do not really support.
Single Issue Voting is for morons.