Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Campaign positions

The presumptive nominees of the two main US parties are beginning to position themselves for the November elections, and that’s opened them up to criticism from both ends of the spectrum.

This won’t be news to anyone who’s listened to my political podcasts with Jason, but Democrats must run to the left in the primaries, Republicans must run to the right, then afterward both must move back to the centre because—news flash for both extremes—that’s where the voters are. This is actually neither new nor news.

I’ve predicted many times that the Republicans will launch into the use of wedge issues as they did in 2004 and 2006 in their desperation to win in November. Specifically, Republicans will vilify gay and lesbian Americans as they attempt to rally their far right base. I expected this to come from the party, not McSame, who kept calling himself a different kind of Republican.

However, speaking recently on Fox Noise, Republican commentator Fred Barnes, editor of the right wing Weekly Standard, said John McSame, just like Bush-Cheney, should use gay people as political targets. Specifically, he said McSame should use “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and marriage equality as wedge issues.

While those issues have lost much of their appeal to almost everyone except christianist extremists, McSame seems to be listening: He’s already announced his full support for outlawing same-sex marriage at the state level, and has left the door open for an Amendment to the US Constitution to do the same nationally. He also supports DADT. It’s a short step from there to adopting the Bush-Cheney anti-gay wedge issue strategy.

This is unusual because normally at this point you’d expect McSame to be moving back toward the centre, but instead he seems to be trying to placate the far right base of the Republican Party. Perhaps it’s an indication of how weak his position is in his own party.

Meanwhile, leftwing bloggers have gone apoplectic over what they think is Barack Obama’s move to the right. Writing on the Huffington Post, Andy Borowitz mocked the bloggers:

The liberal blogosphere was aflame today with new accusations that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) is trying to win the 2008 presidential election… Suspicions about Sen. Obama's true motives have been building over the past few weeks, but not until today have the bloggers called him out for betraying the Democratic Party's losing tradition.

The fact that Obama is expressing his position in more centrist terms isn’t newsworthy. The fact that McSame has continued—and expanded on—his right wing rhetoric is news, since he would be expected to be moving to the centre by now.

In any case, there will never be a “perfect” candidate who will tick every box for the left or the right; such a candidate couldn’t win the general election. Actually, I’ve never been 100% happy with any candidate I’ve ever voted for in any race in any election. So what? Personally, I think that’s impossible unless I run as a candidate myself, and even then I’d probably be suspicious.

So, as a big-picture political pragmatist, I can say that I probably won’t be 100% happy with Barak Obama, but I know for certain that I’d be nearly 100% unhappy with John McSame. So I think my friends on the left need to chill-out and remember that in the overall scheme of things, a centrist Obama is far better than a rightist McSame for many, many reasons. And just for once, maybe the left should stop and think about how important it would be to win something rather than loose everything.

This time, the Democrats must win—for a change.


Nik said...

Well said -- I'm still aghast when I see anyone who claims to have been a Clinton supporter who says they'll back McCain over Obama. Do they WANT an entire Supreme Court of Scalias? I'm just hoping the whiners are a vocal but small minority. McCain's rather inept campaign so far makes me hopeful, though.

Arthur Schenck said...

I agree. But I wrote this post before the Senate vote on FISA, and a bad situation has become worse with the left stridently indignant. I stand by everything I said in this post.

A commentor on another blog I read suggested something I agree with: President Obama could appoint three liberals to the Supreme Court who then join a majority to rule that FISA—which would have passed even without Obama's vote—is unconstitutional. So, FISA would be struck down, the Court would have three rational justices appointed to it—everyone wins.

But if Obama had voted "no", he would have handed a campaign issue to the Republicans who would have branded him as a friend of terrorists, and polling shows he's weakest on that issue.

The left, it seems, would rather lose and be ideologically pure than compromise to get someone elected who could implement at least some of the progressive change they seek, as opposed to defeating it all (or worse, going backwards). Yeah, and that whole protest vote thing worked out so well in 2000 with votes wasted on Ralph Nader.

Nope, I'm sticking with Obama.