Columns / Discourse / February 21, 2008

Requiem for a dream

I have been struggling for a couple of weeks over just how to write this column. This is not an easy piece for me to write, but it is one that I feel somewhat obligated to write. I had high hopes for this primary season. Finally, we, the Republican Party, could move beyond Bush and get ourselves a candidate who was a true conservative, someone who could not only rally the base of the party but conceivably bring liberals around to our point of view as well.

Admittedly, I was in many ways hoping for a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, but I had hope nonetheless that we would have something better than the social conservative/fiscal moderate that is George W. Bush.

Instead, we end up with three candidates whose governing styles are practically indistinguishable. As much as McCain is protesting that he’s a conservative Republican, he’s far too habituated to thumbing his nose at us and siding with liberals for me to think his governing style would not be the same sort of spineless conviviality that generally characterized the early years and disasters of the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama and Hillary are having to resort to the most esoteric, arcane points of policy to differentiate themselves to their base. In principle, they want the same things and think the same way: they’re both liberal socialists. The substantive difference is wholly constituted in the details of their plans.

Because of this, I’m torn in three different directions about this election.

On the one hand, I am a Republican, and have a hard time seeing myself ever voting Democrat. They would have to front a liberal Reagan before I would even consider it, and I’m not sure it’s possible to be both that substantive and that charismatic, and be a liberal. Certainly, neither of the Democrats currently running are.

Hillary vaguely approaches being substantive, but I doubt we’ve yet seen her real agenda, and Obama is all flash, with little substance to speak of. He says nothing, but he says it very, very well. Coupled with my low opinion of their policy positions, foreign and domestic, there’s no way I’ll be voting for either of them.

On the other hand, there’s McCain. He became very embittered after losing the primary in 2000, and the end result of that was he began to work in earnest against the party and, more importantly, conservatism. His track record since then has been abysmal, to put it nicely: McCain-Feingold (campaign finance reform), McCain-Kennedy (amnesty), and McCain-Lieberman (global warming boondoggle), just to hit the high points, as well as opposition to the FISA workarounds and the removal of the filibuster for judges. These things make honest conservatives lose sleep at night, not jump for joy. Coupled with the fact that he’s so accustomed to waltzing across the aisle for his dance partners, I have no good reason to think he’ll be any different from either of the Democrats he may face, even on Iraq.

This is not to say I think he’ll cut and run from Iraq, but rather I don’t think either of the Democrats will. Democrats have difficulties with credibility on national security of which they are painfully aware. If they pulled out now, it would serve only to further cement in the public psyche their image as defeatists. Whatever platitudes they’re dishing up now, neither Hillary nor Obama would end up pulling us out of Iraq prematurely.

That said, though, I have a difficult time wanting to vote for any of the serious candidates on the ballot, even though I believe that I, as an American citizen, have an obligation to vote on my elected officials. But McCain will not be made more palatable by his VP nominee; regardless the speculation of the media, VP nominees don’t carry much weight at the polls.

McCain will have to choose someone the base likes or risk hemorrhaging more of his support, but it won’t do anything to make us like him. And I can’t in good conscience vote Hillary or Obama. But I must vote. Thus, I have no endorsement in the presidential race, and I think come November, I will either leave that field blank or vote third party.

All said and done, though, I think I’d rather a Democrat win this one. It’ll be hell on the country, I know, and given the two left in the field, we’ll be having Jimmy Carter déjà vu, but it did take Carter to give us Reagan, and really, if the country is going to go to hell in a hand-basket for the next few years, I’d much rather the blame be properly attributed to the socialist policies of a liberal Democrat than a R.I.N.O. masquerading as a conservative.

Chris Berger

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