Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Saving the Democrats from Themselves and Us from Them?

All kidding aside, and even if I can’t swallow all of it, there is something serious supporting Jonah Goldberg’s argument about McCain choosing a Dem for his VP nominee. It is this: Perhaps we have to save the Democrats from themselves before we can a.) save the country from the consequences of the direction of today’s Dem. party and b.) save the Republicans from self-imposed oblivion.

Let’s look at some of the facts before we move on. As you look at the field of possible contenders, Jonah is right to argue that none of them really brings a solid plus without also bringing aboard some complicating baggage. Jindal, though an excellent choice for many of the reasons we’ve articulated here before, does run the risk of looking like a gimmick and also of ruining his own career. And it’s very likely that Jindal will not want to do it and I cannot blame him for it. Romney will only please a very select group of conservatives and turn off a very large segment of the undecided voting public. I promise you, if he is selected, it’s over. We lose. He makes it almost impossible (fairly or not) to beat Obama with the elitist stick that will win this election for McCain if properly employed. It’s also true that if we get a Republican squish for the Veep nominee, we lose. This will send the conservatives into a howling fit from which McCain is not likely to recover (though I do suspect that McCain does not really believe this and, for that reason I fret over him . . . he should, under no circumstances, tempt the fates with any more deliberate insults levied at conservatives).

McCain’s objective if he means to achieve victory is to maintain the conservative base and attract sensible voters from the middle. There’s more to doing that than choosing a Vice Presidential candidate--to be sure--but this choice will be one of the yardsticks by which the tone of his campaign will be set and measured. So how can I entertain the possibility of a Democrat as VP?

Instinctively, I’m inclined to dismiss Jonah’s idea and say, of course, he should choose a REPUBLICAN above all else. I may still hold that opinion even after I seriously entertain the idea of choosing a Dem. But perhaps there is some utility in thinking through the possible reasons for McCain choosing a Dem, even if we reject it in the end. I’m going to dismiss Sam Nunn for my purposes and consider, instead, Lieberman. I choose him only because he is more well-known today (esp. among younger voters), well-liked by all sorts, and he carries with him the irresistible aura of a wronged man. Choosing him would first be an admission from McCain that he is not going to (and cannot) re-christen the Republican party in his image. After the initial anger Lieberman’s nomination would cause, McCain could use it to reassure conservatives that he isn’t trying to re-invent the conservative movement or re-shape the Republican party. Rather, he’s trying to be practical and do a specific job: win the war. This could give conservatives the hope of living to fight another day on the turf of their choosing rather than that of John McCain. I, for one, prefer this to having to carry water for McCain. If this alliance between McCain and Lieberman could be painted as something like a war-time coalition government or a task force of the parties. Apart from the good it would do for the parties--as it is sometimes good to break up a fight even if you know it will later resume--it would be good for the country to unite around this issue of ending the war in Iraq with honor. It allows John McCain to fight on the warrior ground upon which he is most comfortable and most capable. It forces Obama to enter into an area in which he’s quite uncomfortable and, we’ve seen, incompetent. It highlights McCain’s strengths and Obama’s weaknesses. It is courageous to take on this fight and people will respect that. I have always liked the idea of attacking the question of the war head-on. He might as well. If he tries to skirt it, he will lose as people notice he’s not defending his position and his claim of courage loses credibility. He can only win as a war president. I think he knows this.

I don’t know if it would be wise to state up-front that McCain will only seek one term. Jonah’s right that this would cheer conservatives . . . but then McCain would be a lame duck from the get-go. Further, it is asking too much of his pride to suggest it. On the other hand, if he is clever, he may get the same benefit Jonah speculates about if he just lets that idea float and keeps people guessing. Besides, things could change. Something terrible could happen to the country and we may not want to change horses in mid-stream. I almost always think it’s a terrible idea not to leave open the possibility of re-election in a republic.

More good things that could come from this choice: It would be good for the Democrats to see the more extreme wing of their party suffer a serious defeat. If Lieberman is the choice and wins along with McCain, Lieberman would be vindicated. He may not be (exactly) a Scoop Jackson Democrat. But he’s a damn sight better than anything else they’ve got going right now. He’s a person of some integrity and backbone and he’s got a common-sensical love for the country that appeals to everyone. He connects with the people we need in order to prevail in the struggle we’re in with the radical elements of Islam. It is better to have those people planted firmly on our side (even if temporarily) and to give them a stake in the fight than to have them loosely tied and trailing behind the radical elements among the Democrats where they can’t do anything but wring their hands and get used, occasionally, to attack the wisdom of Republicans. With the Dems they can do no good and affect nothing. With us, they can help their country and rise to a position of prominence--perhaps one day strong enough to regain control of their own party and defeat us. But such a defeat would be honorable and I am willing to risk it. I would rather suffer that than defeat at the hands of the likes of Obama & Co. and watch my country do great damage to herself and others.

Some may object that there is also a danger that admitting these folks in among our ranks may work against us and allow them to take over our party. I concede that. But I am not afraid of that challenge. I do not think they could transform the Republican party as easily as those who fear this imagine. I think it’s more likely that the Democrats would find themselves in need of copying us in an attempt to bring these folks home to them. Then we’d have a genuine and worthy fight for the center. I would be happier to do combat on these friendly terms with a loyal opposition than to have to continue in these pointless squabbles with an opponent who does not even come to the table with the same understanding of the terms. We could make real inroads with some of these voters, I think, and the GOP could build itself a strong center.

Do we have to save the Democrat party from itself before we can work on saving the Republicans? I’m still very tentative about this but I begin to suspect that we do.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Julie, Take a brief tour around the blogosphere and absorb the contempt for McCain already present among conservatives and libertarians. Maybe most of them will end up voting for him anyway. But they would surely draw the line at McCain-Lieberman. The Republicans can't win on the war without the conservatives who vote Republicans in spite of their reservations about Bush's foreign policy and without seriously providing alternatives on domestic policies. Remember, too, that Lieberman was fairly lame last time he was the VP nominee. I do agree that L would be better than N--the latter, as has been pointed out, isn't even sound on foreign policy. Still, McC-L would turn Bob Barr into a serious candidate and keep lots of social conservatives home.

Peter is right, no Lieberman, no Dem. This stuff is fun to pontificate, but in the real world we know Mac can't really pick a Democrat. Don't waste too much time dreaming up mixed tickets and fantasy scenarios of Bloombergs, Giulianis, and strange tickets.

Mac's "VP" meeting was the oddest thing to date-spawning even strange commentary like Goldberg. The only reasonable answer is that Mac was just meeting with the dark horses first to get the courtesy call out of the way before building buzz for the real nominee. Crist and Jindal are both bright and decent Republicans with future possibilities, but their time isn't now. Romney is a hack, despised (far beyond "unfavorable") by both McCain and 65% of Americans. As Julie notes, Romney's addition to the ticket would end the race and terminate my vote as well.

The front-runners have to still be Sanford, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Portman. Even dark horses like Ridge or Tommy Thompson are more likely picks than the three meeting with Mac.

Peter: You may be right in the end. But I can't help but think that this is really, really too bad and a symptom of limited imaginations on the part of those conservatives and libertarians who would be inclined to take such a development as yet another reason to be irritated with McCain and stay home. I tend to think that a liberated John McCain liberates me as a conservative from having to claim him as "my guy" and carry his political water. I don't relish the idea of explaining his actions in terms of conservatism and I don't expect that much of what he will do will serve to persuade others to become conservatives. But why does he have to be "my guy" in order to get my vote? Isn't it enough that he is better than the other guy? If I don't have a guy strong enough to run, then I have to choose between the ones who are running until I can put one of "my guys" up for consideration. But beyond that, maybe now is not the best time for conservatives and libertarians to be terribly worried about how to get McCain to toe their line. He won't do it as they would like anyway. Sometimes it's better to make it clear that a flawed spokesman is no spokesman at all, if you get my meaning. But perhaps this is too much to ask of politically active conservatives and libertarians--even if it is the smartest thing they could do. Tragically, you may be right.

Peter Lawler, nothing will make Bob Barr a serious candidate. His little mustache makes him look like Thomas Dewey, among other problems.


Still, what you are suggesting with Barr is that there is a political retrenchment happening in America, though no one really understands how that is working nor is it clear what it all means yet.

Some of us were talking about this on the back pages last week. Since the Republican Party has little available talent on hand for VP this election, especially among conservatives, McCain might as well look elsewhere for a a merely somewhat conservative candidate. I first heard about the Goldberg article while in the car the other day. I had Rush on and he was blasting the Nunn or Lieberman idea out of hand. If conservative principles are the point, and we are having a hard time finding Republicans with conservative principles, who we like and who has the experience and name recognition to help McCain's campaign, then who not do something completely different, looking to principle rather than party?

Haste makes bad grammar; "have" and "why" ought to be in there instead of "has" and "who", but I think you'll get my point.

I feel roughly the same way about McCain as Mark Levin does, but I'd actually be more comfortable with voting for McCain if he chose Lieberman as his running mate.

Like Ms. Ponzi says, it would emphasize the war issue, and it would give conservative Republicans in Congress every excuse they need to rebel against McCain when he tries to lead the party in a non-conservative direction.

(All they'd have to do is paint it as a Lieberman/non-Republican/Democrat idea.)

And this accomplishes exactly what Rush (and Andy McCarthy) was (were) arguing for back before he decided to go with Operation Chaos instead.

Peter, you would do well to recall that the rift between the base and McCain started first with McCain himself; he started this war; he initiated hosilities; he went to the deep South in 2000 blasting away at social conservatives. He's long courted media love at the expense of the base; he's long courted that maverick title by burnishing his credentials at the expense of Reaganism. It actually took a while for Conservatives to respond measure for measure.

John Lewis, what was the conclusion? Who does Christianity Today see as virtuous in the crowd? Reading what you have quoted, not voting seems the logical response. Why bother?

Well...according to the article we pick bad leaders because the focus of the world is on tertiary factors that it falsely presumes are significant or predictive. According to the article virtue and character should be primary for christians everything else being just a sign of integrity/ correspondence of character.

Sociologically Julie's point and my point are precisely the point made first by Toqueville. "The great men close to the throne of an absolute monarch flatter their master's passions and willingly bow to his caprices. But the mass of the nation does not countenance servitude; its submission is often from weakness, habit, or ignorance and sometimes from love of the throne or of the king. Moreover, there is a great difference between doing something of which you do not approve and pretending to approve of what you are doing; the first is the part of the weak man, but the second fits only the manners of a valet."

I read the libertarians and the conservatives on the blogosphere and I know they are serious, but I know also that they are in the lens of Toqueville simply excess aristocracy...what Fukuyama warned could occur if insufficient outlets for megalothymia were not present? What I do know is that few people who voted for Huckabee or Ron Paul will go so far as to be valets for McCain, albeit those who are the mass in Toqueville are represented in electoral thought process by the Christianity Today article, pragmatic enough to support McCain as he is provided we do not believe that we are being fooled once again about what he represents.

From what I can hear McCain and Lieberman are good friends. A McCain Lieberman marriage is thus a working coalition that is perceived to have integrity.

Really if you guys wanted to pair McCain up with a conservative you should have a smarter republican attack machine. You have already made it difficult for McCain to pick a conservative without alienating a certain "map" of voter.

And what is Hegelian sociology if not the study of the interaction between various cognitive maps? What is the Phenomenology of Spirit? What if the promise of the end of history is just a clever joke played upon the sane who would otherwise be frightened by the never ending combinations?

A very bold prediction...McCain picks Lieberman. My caveat is that I want too take the long odds offered by Clint...I only sound like I am crazy, absolutes are for those who haven't played poker.

We can't save the GOP from itself, but somehow we are supposed to save the Democratic party from itself?

He makes it almost impossible (fairly or not) to beat Obama with the elitist stick that will win this election for McCain if properly employed


McCain is at least as much the candidate of elites as Obama. It's getting to be a toss-up as to whether the GOP elites are more a danger to the country than the Democratic ones.

I am not suggesting some some salvage operation for the GOP nor one for the Dems; rather otherwise. I am interested in a bit of a smash of the current political order because I do not like it.

If the GOP is defining conservatism with McCain, then Leiberman falls in that realm. Any of us who might define conservatism differently can go pound salt, anyhow, and we really have no place else to go, politically, whatever Peter Lawler says. They do both have elements of conservative ideology as part of their political ethos, and we can back them on those grounds. Politically, choosing Leiberman would place the whole Obama issue of non-partisanship and "change" in nullity land. And talk about usurping the political center! That is the vast excuse Republicans use for talking out of the left sides of their mouths during election time, that they must engage the US political center. Wouldn't this just do it?

For a change, in this election, they would have to make nice to the right, which might mean actually making whatever conservative case they can to the public. We need that as a nation. Truly, these guys are conservative enough on the vital issues on which the president actually has effect to be bearable for the next four years.

So, Julie is right above, but misses some things. The more I think about this, the more I like it, not that my liking has effect anywhere. I wish I had more time to write about this. So what? There are other people who actually get paid to think about this stuff who will write about it at more length.

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