October 27, 2008


What's A Perverse Voter To Do?: Vote McCain to advance top liberal initiatives and the Democratic Party; vote Obama for the health of the GOP and the vindication of Bush. (Jonathan Rauch, 10/25/08, National Journal)

Suppose, then, that you are a perverse voter and in 2008 you want to...

* Give liberals two historic policy victories. Vote for: John McCain.

For liberals, climate change and health care are the overarching priorities of our era. (Good-government types would add entitlement reform, but who cares about them?) Like Social Security and immigration -- only, if anything, more so -- global warming and health care are too large and too politically sensitive to handle on a one-party basis. Both parties must have their fingerprints on any major reform.

If Obama wins, Democrats will be inclined to ram through legislation on their own terms. If so, they would likely fare no better than President Clinton did with one-party health reform in 1993, or President Bush did with one-party Social Security reform in 2005.

If they did manage to enact something without Republican support, chances are it would be unpopular, short-lived, or both. The Republican half of the country would have no stake in making the reform succeed, and the Democratic half would be blamed for whatever went wrong.

To get a new brain, a zombie party usually needs to lose power.

McCain is running on carbon-emissions limits that are not much different from what Democrats want, and his health plan's focus on reducing costs nicely complements the Democrats' focus on expanding coverage. Put him in the White House, and bipartisan action on both fronts is all but guaranteed. Big winners: liberals.

* Restore the Republican Party's health. Vote for: Barack Obama.

What was most telling about McCain's surprise choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate was not the Alaska governor's own qualities or the gamble that McCain took in choosing her; it was the Republican base's uncritically adoring reaction. Republicans who might once have wondered where a potential president stands on major issues found it more than enough to know that Palin is a pro-life hockey mom who makes liberals angry and can field dress a moose.

Palinmania was the clearest indication yet, though not the only one, that the GOP is a zombie party. Unable to articulate any coherent or workable governing philosophy, it mindlessly pushes cultural hot buttons, repeats hardwired tropes ("cut taxes cut taxes cut taxes"), nurses tribal resentments, and ostracizes independent thinkers (including, for quite a while, McCain).

Not that the GOP doesn't need some re-focusing, but what the Beltway types can never seem to grasp is that defending the culture is a governing philosophy, indeed the philosophy of the majority. And what the Left wants to do is destroy the culture in order to make people dependent on the State.

Republican leaders--Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels?--will spend the next couple years dragging the party back to the compassionate conservatism that provides social security without exacerbating statism: SS reform; universal health care based around HSAs; personalized unemployment insurance; etc.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2008 9:50 AM
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