As much as I’ve been impressed by Barack Obama’s ascension, I was sure that this year would be an easy call for me. McCain would have been my choice in 2000 had he survived the South Carolina bloodbath and won the nomination, and I was looking forward to having a chance to vote for him this time around. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the election. The McCain of 2000 vanished, and the man on the left who was supposed to stand for a new kind of politics proved he could pander with the best of them, in a decidedly old style of politics. Where to go now? What to do? Anguish has set in.
After the incompetence and cronyism of the last four years, fours years that I admittedly voted for, I swore to myself that this time I would be extremely well versed in all the issues and every candidate’s positions. I watched every single primary debate on both sides, I’ve read every op-ed piece, seen every pundit, heard every radio talk show host and devoured issue after issue of the Economist and Foreign Affairs. Through it all I’ve watched McCain 2008 with increasing alarm. The move to the hard right, that convention, the stutter-step on the economic crisis, the robo-calls, Palin’s positions and lack of gravitas, they’ve all stopped me in my tracks. There’s something more emotional than policy at work on me here. It may be shallow, but it’s affecting my gut and it has to do with the “type” of leader these men are revealing themselves to be. Disappointingly partisan and not transformative or maverick enough by half.
But don't count him as someone who is look at Obama with rose-colored glasse, either. He thinks both candidates are not ideal by a long shot:
Obama’s initial painting of McCain as out of touch and caught in a perpetual “senior moment” insulted my intelligence and offended my sense of fairness, as has McCain’s shocking effort to paint Obama as anti-American. When I want to believe the myth of “Obama the messiah,” he opens his mouth and sounds an awful lot like the hell-spawn of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. When I want to believe in the McCain of 2000, the man who decried the “agents of intolerance,” he then goes out and seeks their endorsements. Like many Americans, I operate out of a base of centrist common sense. It makes sense to me to not raise corporate taxes in the middle of a recession if you want to protect job creation and lower the risk of inflation. It makes sense to me not to give tax refunds to people who pay no income tax. It makes sense to me to not afford regimes like Iran the same treatment you’d give countries like the former Soviet Union.
On the other hand, common sense also tells me it is blasphemous to threaten something as sacred as the U.S. Constitution by suggesting we use it to deny people equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation. Common sense tells me it’s about time the right stops calling evolution a “theory.” It’s not. Common sense tells me not to trust the government to get between a woman and her doctor on reproductive rights, nor to trust it with the power of life and death in the form of the death penalty. I want the government to keep its boot off my neck, hands out of my pocket, eyes out of my bedroom, I want it to keep the playing field fair so people can achieve and not just collect handouts, and I want it to keep us safe. That’s it. That’s a common sense role for government. Where’s that candidate?
Where, indeed. But maybe the part of the interview that was telling was this:
Maybe it is unrealistic of me to be a pro-choice, pro-school voucher, anti-affirmative action, pro-business, pro-environment, pro-gay marriage, anti-death penalty, pro-globalization, pro-universal health care, pro-tax cuts, anti-pork barrel spending, pro-war on terror Republican, but that’s where I am.
I think this sentence is telling because it sums up what is wrong with the GOP and the conservative movement as a whole: it has become rigid, only wanting people who line up with some imaginary checklist on who is a conservative and who is not, instead of trying to build a coalition of people who may not agree on everything, but agree on many issues.
The people who are falling over themselves at the sight of Sarah Palin seem more than willing to let people like this go by the wayside and vote for Obama. The enemy of good is the perfect, and that is what is going to determine how long the GOP stays in its well-deserved wilderness.