Tuesday, February 05, 2008

McCain Derangement Syndrome Simplified

Some conservatives have decided that it is time to punish Republicans for abandoning their roots. McCain happens to be at hand. (Gratitude to Classical Values for this.)

I can understand this somewhat. Reliable conservative NH Senator Judd Gregg has been softening in a Washington direction slightly, and I have thought it would be good to "send him a message." But there are difficulties with this type of gamesmanship politics, and conservatives should be properly cautious before embracing it.

Caution #1. There might be some general agreement on what is the conservative position on most issues, but there is not a general consensus as to what ranking order those issues come in. When one starts to insist what a Real Conservative is, it nearly always involves insisting not only on your position, but your ranking of which issues are most important. You can easily find other conservatives who will rank the issues differently, and all your exhaling violently about ignoring the Constitution or creeping socialism doesn't change that. You and your best buddies do not get to define True Conservatism.

Caution #2. The purpose of elections is not for you to feel represented by someone you approve of, but for the country to be governed. Wanting to feel heard is what led the antiwar crowd to circulate Not In Our Name petitions. It is Democrats who vote on the basis of "cares about people like me." Your positions may be as conservative as Coolidge, but you're thinking like a fuzzy liberal when you do this.


Anonymous said...

You sound like the kind of guy that would recommend someone to forgive their cheating spouse for the umpteenth time "for the children."

Eight years of Bill Clinton did not destroy the Republic. Four more years of a Clinton or Obama presidency won't either.

Anonymous said...

I also think it's highly insulting to suggest that the conservatives opposing McCain are only upset because their voices aren't being heard like a bunch of liberals.
You're either being unserious in your criticism or intentionally being deaf to conservative complaints about McCain.

Finally, giving up a little ground now in order to make greater gains in the future is not a far fetched strategy. There are plenty of examples where it has worked in politics, war, and business.

Contrary to your post on the Daily Pundit, I do think Clinton will be a better war president than McCain, if only because she'll have the full support of the media and the Democratic congress on her side.

David Foster said...

I don't really care whether or not McCain fits somebody's Platonic Ideal of "conservatism." I do care that:

1)He seems to have an imperfect understanding of the importance of free speech
2)He radiates hostility toward the economic system that has made this country successful, and even toward the individuals who make the system work
3)He has no experience in running large organizations. Running a fighter squadron is not sufficient, and more than running a senatorial office
4)On a personal level, he seems unable to deal with disagreement without perceiving it as an attack.

I'd still vote for him over either of the Democrats, but let's not kid ourselves about what we're getting.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

nash, those are better-than-average reasons. I think that your assessment of the risk is inaccurate - I trace 9-11 directly to Clintonian waffling and searching for legacy rather than paying attention to business, for example - but I see that you are at least assessing the risk. That has not been my experience in reading about the blogosphere. As for being insulting, for example, I think being called a shit-sandwich Republican over at Dailypundit exceeds anything dished out here.

I also don't think it is giving up a "little" ground in order to make greater gains later. If I did, I might assess a McCain vote differently, and I do see that if that is your assessment, the risk seems smaller to you. Particularly after reading The Black Swan and the study of uncertainty in general, I believe we move continually into greater instability, where our risks are greater.

david -
1. agreed.
2. radiating hostility is annoying, but I am more interested in his free trade views. The WSJ has an interesting op-ed on the topic today, and finds McCain slightly better than the other candidates of both parties.
3. agreed
4. partial agreement. I think grouchiness can be a strength.

David Foster said...

avi...grouchiness can sometimes be harmless, but it is not a strength in a leader when it causes him to angrily dismiss people who provide information or arguments that challenge his views.

One of the greatest threats to rational decision-making is "confirmation bias," which is the tendency to selectively seek out information supporting the hypothesis he already holds. Given the way McC has reacted to *peers*, it's easy to imagine how he would react to *subordinates*.

kreiz1 said...

Spot on, AVI. If one is emotionally invested in MDS at this point, they need to step back, take a deep breath, and think. Perfection is the enemy of the Good.