Confessions of a used-to-be liberal: Why I’ve decided, reluctantly, to vote for John McCain.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Secret ballots be damned. It’s time for me to fess up. You’re nice enough to stop by, read my stuff, leave a comment now and then. You deserve to know.

Mind you, my reasons for voting for Senator McCain, as you are about to find out, are more negative than positive. They are reasons why I believe he would be better as President, better for our country than Senator Obama, even though I don’t like either of them for the job. I am, in other words, making a negative choice, a process which, unfortunately, has become a tradition. (For the record, if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)

In case you’re wondering, in my entire life I have only once voted for a Republican candidate for President. That was for the first George Bush when he ran against Michael Dukakis. It was one of those negative choices. “None of the Above” wasn’t on the ballot.

Here goes, in no particular order. Be prepared. Life is short. I’m going to be blunt.

Experience… Barack Obama has none. Zip. He’s a professional candidate. Very bright. Exceptionally well spoken, but otherwise completely unqualified to manage our government, domestic or international. Senator McCain is a far less attractive candidate, but is experienced and unquestionably better prepared to be President.

Choice of Vice President… To say that Joe Biden is more qualified to be President than Sarah Palin is a joke based on the naïve assumption that being President does not require management skills or experience. The fact that our current President has no management (or other discernable) skills does not set the standard for his position. Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas, is a better example of what I have in mind.

Naiveté… This is different than “experience.” What I’m talking about here is whether or not either candidate’s stated philosophy of governing is realistic. Senator Obama believes in governing by consensus and compromise. Give me a break. “Change” doesn’t happen by getting divergent interests in Congress to agree on a course of action. I want, and we desperately need real leadership if our government is to get anything important done anytime soon – leadership which John McCain is more likely to provide.

Naiveté… My impression is that Senator Obama believes that he can talk our enemies of state into getting along with us, that he can resolve international threats and crises by the sheer force of rhetoric, charisma and good will. His willingness to meet with anyone, anywhere, without preconditions is testimony to his fundamental lack of any real understanding of what it means to negotiate with someone you can’t trust, whose intentions are based on an entirely different set of principles and objectives. Senator McCain harbors no such delusions.

Integrity… Senator McCain has a history of saying what he believes regardless of the consequences. Senator Obama promises everything to everyone, without regard to his ability to actually accomplish those objectives or their cost. During three lackluster years in the US Senate, he’s followed his party leadership, failing to initiate any of the major new programs which are his campaign’s slogan. What’s he been waiting for? They’re both professional politicians, and you know what that means, but between the two of them, Barack Obama gets the prize for saying and doing whatever it takes to get elected. (Does anyone remember his commitment to government campaign funding, until he realized he might be able to raise enough on his own to, almost literally, buy the election?)

Political Philosophy… Senator Obama is too liberal, even for me. (Personally, I’m a registered independent who believes in using conservative economic policy and management to accomplish a liberal social programs agenda.) Every speech he makes convinces me more that he will preside over a larger, much more expensive government with takes a significantly greater role in our personal lives and economy. I don’t believe that government is the problem, but it certainly isn’t the solution either. John McCain is, above all, a Republican in the purest sense of that label, and will not grow the government or expand its influence, certainly not to the extent Barack Obama will. (Regrettably, President Bush and his gang have given Republicans a bad name just when we need to elect a competent one.)

Balancing the Budget and Reducing our National Debt… Senator McCain will, although getting it done with the Democrats in charge of Congress won’t be easy. Senator Obama won’t, primarily because he’ll be too busy kissing up to Congress and won’t be willing to make the necessary cuts to the agenda that got him elected.

The Economy… Neither of them knows what he’s doing. With luck, the economy will recover on its own in spite of either of them and Congress, and whoever’s in charge will take full credit. In general, I suspect Republican instincts will be more conducive to an economic recovery by encouraging business to take the lead with minimal interference. It’s a smarter and far less expensive approach than what the Democrats seem to have in mind.

Checks and Balances… I think we’re going to need a President who, by virtue of his party affiliation and personal beliefs, will be a countervailing power to what may be an overwhelmingly Democrat majority in both houses. (Another Bush legacy.) For the measly three years he’s been in the US Senate, Barack Obama has consistently done what his party’s leadership has asked of him. Does anyone really think they’re going to let him be in charge just because he’s President?

Campaign… Hands down, Senator Obama is sitting on top of the better organized, better managed campaign. It’s a major point in his favor. If Senator McCain can’t manage his campaign, so the argument in my head goes, how well can I expect him to run the government? It’s convincing, but only until I ask myself what one has to do with the other. Is the product that has the most effective advertising campaign necessarily the highest quality, the most useful and the one I want to buy? To what extent do I want to elect a person President because of superior skills at managing the media and public opinion? Do I even like the way that question sounds? No. I don’t.

Supreme Court… Yes, I’m concerned about the effect of the appointments our next President might make to the Supreme Court. Yes, my personal opinions are significantly different from Senator McCain’s on a number of social issues, including a woman’s right to choose, and that bothers me in no small way. But then the President only nominates, while it’s up to the Senate to confirm his choices for the Supreme Court – a Senate that is controlled by the Democrats. The need for compromise will make a McCain Presidency is far more likely to produce moderate replacements to retiring Judges, than an Obama Presidency whose replacements might be too liberal for my personal taste and that of a very large segment, if not outright majority of the electorate. I want competent Judges who are open-minded, all things considered, when they hear the major issues presented to the Court. Which Presidency, I wonder rhetorically, is more likely to nominate and approve extremes on either end of the political spectrum?

Short-term… This is my last and most perverse argument. Remember, even though I think we’re better off with Senator McCain in office, neither of these candidates measures up to my absolute standards for The Oval Office. In this context, I believe that McCain’s age is actually a point in his favor. However successful, he’s likely to be only a one term President, while we’ll probably be stuck with Obama for the full eight. Four years from now, I want to play it again. With or without Hillary Clinton, maybe next time we’ll get it right and give us the opportunity to make a more positive choice between two highly qualified candidates.

Whew. There, I’ve typed it all out. Spilled my guts, and it still makes sense. To me anyway. Now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the campaign. Whatever the polls say, I plan on having a good time.

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