I haven’t commented directly on the presidential race for a while. I thought I’d recap my current thoughts here a bit, soliciting as usual feedback both in agreement and in challenge.
I’m a lot less excited about Obama now than I was during the primary. It would take pretty much a literal Act of God to get me to not vote for him, but ever since his FISA vote, he’s been running to the center. It’s an electoral strategy I understand, but don’t agree with. That’s conventional wisdom — if I’d wanted CW, I’d have supported Hillary in the primaries. This election doesn’t need to be run from the center. The Republicans have so thoroughly discredited themselves outside of their own narrow base that Obama could run this on strong liberal-progressive principles and still win.
Biden annoys me a lot. He’s Hillary in a suit, and worse, a thorough-going corporatist. I’m not sure why the Democrats are so excited about him. He was on the wrong side of the Iraq War votes, on the wrong side of bankruptcy “reform”, on the wrong side of pretty much every business/financial regulation issue. That last makes sense since he represents Delaware, with its very strong presence of credit card companies and other businesses, but while it might make sense for Delaware, that kind of policy position is profoundly antidemocratic (small “D”, obviously) and antipopulist. Basically, he’s almost a Rockefeller Republican. I don’t want that shit in my country’s White House. Again, like Obama’s run to the center, I appreciate the electoral strategy involved in this choice, but I’d be a lot more excited if Obama had stuck to principles and a real message of change with his VP choice, rather than change-ish rhetoric over a business-as-usual framework. Big-business-as-usual in Biden’s case.
I have never trusted McCain’s ‘maverick’ image, since long before he was a presidential contender. His role in the Keating Five was well known at the time, though it seems to have vanished down the nation’s collective memory hole since then. Basically, he’s just another rich white Republican on the take, always has been. While some of his social positions have appealed to me in the past, his sharp turn to the Republican base in the primaries (and since) prove he’s a creature of political expediency. That’s fine as far as it goes — two paragraphs above I lambasted Obama for being the same — but you can’t be both a maverick and politically expedient. They’re pretty much mutually exclusive. I also find it quite rich that a card carrying member of the Permanent Majority is now running as a Washington outsider standing firm against partisanship. I mean, it’s not like the past sixteen years of Congressional politics were a nonpartisan love feast. And guess who was at the middle of it? Worst of all, his foreign policy and military postions make Bushism seem almost sane. A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.
Even more interesting is his pick of Governor Palin as VP. Here McCain is explicitly not running to the center. In fact, in many ways, this is one of the most honest moves I’ve seen from the GOP in my political lifetime. (Counting, basically, from the 1980 elections.) The Evangelical base used to be the crazy aunt in the attic — the Republican Party lived off her donations and voter base, but pretended in polite company that she didn’t exist. They’ve become increasingly politically legitimate in the years since, part of Reagan’s lasting legacy of wrenching the American political center radically to the right by pre-1980 standards. Bush 43 certainly wasn’t afraid to leverage the language of the Evangelical base, and his identification with them, but he never struck me as a True Believer in the mold of Palin. The gloves are off now — batshit antiscience agenda, religious bigotry, the kind of casual corruption that arises from the entitlement of being one of the Elect, the lies which don’t count because they justify the ends. It’s all been there all along, those are the DNA of the Republican party, but the polite veneer is gone now. Palin plays to the base hard in a way which mystifies me, given the overall polling numbers, but then, I’m not a political strategist.
In the end, there’s no question I’m voting for Obama. I’ve stopped giving his campaign money since the FISA vote, but it’s not like I have a choice. McCain’s selection of Palin was a far bolder move than Obama’s selection of Biden. In effect, the Republicans did what I wish the Democrats had done: run on their principles. I may find them venal, corrupt and regrettable, but I have to admire their consistency.