Tuesday, February 05, 2008

verification. . .and prediction

First, a clarification: I don't think that on your 70th birthday you suddenly become incapable of running the country. I know plenty of spry-minded folks who have passed this age gate and who I would welcome as a leader in any capacity. I meant to say the other day that if age were to become an issue in an election, at least there is a slightly more reasonable basis for that issue than class rank and other such nonsense. And to clarify even that point: that doesn't make it an overall reasonable basis.

Again, this is a man (McCain) with enough legislative and campaign-trail miscues to pick on that there's no need to go personal on him. My apologies for any writing that led a reader to believe that I'm an agist.

ALL right, back to my regularly scheduled program:

My brother has dire predictions today for Romney. He captures brilliantly the same idea that I failed to quantify the other day: this race has McCain written all over it. I'll only disagree with him in one context: I think McCain actually has an above-average shot of beating the Clintons in a general election. Which is why I'll be paying as much attention to the Dem primaries tonight as to the GOP. With our candidate a foregone conclusion, I just hope beyond all reasonable hope that the Dem voters show themselves to be as clueless as they did in 2004.

Which brings me to my most recent death proclamation: the issue of "electability". I hope that this meme gets put to rest in a voter's mind at the end of this election. Or at least from GOP voters' minds.

It is, in all truth, a death knell to any ideological movement within a party.

In 2004 we laughed when the Dems nominated John Kerry based largely on the idea that he was "electable". Possibly the worst major-party candidate in a lifetime, he somehow lost a net 5 million individual votes from Al Gore's 2000 campaign. Some of that, of course, was because of Bush's strengths. . .but a lot of it was due to Kerry's overall averageness.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right?

Which isn't to say that McCain's only strength is the idea that he is "electable". I know quite a few McCain voters, and I'm willing to bet not a one of them will use the "e" word as the reason for their vote.

But I don't know EVERY McCain voter. And I'm equally willing to bet that there's a good chunk of people pulling the lever for St. John because they buy into the narrative that he is the "most electable". And that spells trouble.

Nominating the "electable" candidate means that the identifying features of the roots of the party will become ever-more vague--and that is far more the case with McCain to the GOP than it was with the liberal record of Kerry and the Democrats in 2004.

An "electable" candidate means trouble down-ticket, because the headliner just doesn't inspire enthusiasm from the base.

And here's my biggest beef: the application of the title "electable". Isn't the "electable" candidate the one who has the greatest opportunity to maintain the base while rallying independents and moderates to the cause?

Kerry failed in the latter score, largely because he was disingenuine and contradictory; McCain gets tabbed as "electable" because of his strength in the middle, but may well fail on the former score unless the conservatives rally to an "ABD" battle cry (that's Anything But Donkeys). And we've still yet to see if the Dems of '08 repeat the failure of '04 by nominating Clinton (who would fail in rallying the middle to her/their cause)--but I can hope.

Of course, the time for this dissertation--and far more importantly, its adoption--was pre-Florida when the GOP field was more diverse. Now, with only three serious but flawed candidates left on the ticket, "electable" is as good of a course as any to follow--but not for McCain, who is not, I think, the most electable. When Rush seriously doubts he'll campaign actively for you, then you are NOT electable for the GOP, period.

And just because it's "the best course" doesn't make it a good course. I'm quite a-feared that November 2008 will end up proving to our side of the aisle that we are just as prone to make some really bad electoral mistakes as our fellow Americans from the other side of the spectrum.


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