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February 11, 2008

Don’t Like Your Candidate, Republicans? Democrats Understand, and Laugh


So let's say Super Tuesday lived up to its billing: The Democratic votes and delegates were split almost directly 50/50 between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, indicating that their battle will continue well into the spring. The Republican race, on the other hand, all but ended – with John McCain, much to the consternation of the conservative establishment, essentially securing the nomination.


And so today, in early February, nine months before general Election Day – barring an unlikely last-minute Huckabee surge – the United States is assured of having an at-least-adequate president. Whether the president we have is great, or merely good, will be determined in time – but after seven years of George W. Bush in office and not very much good news, Super Tuesday was a good day.


I'm a center-left liberal who supports Barack Obama and believes he could be both a great president and a transformative figure in national politics. I may not support Hillary Clinton, but I do think that if she governs much the way her husband did, she won't be bad at all. And while I disagree with McCain on much, I feel he's a man of integrity whom I respect very much – and had he been president from 2001-2005, instead of Bush, I feel like we would be much better off today.


Yes, this is quite an improvement over 2004 when, even early in the primary process, I found myself not liking any of the candidates of either party. And yes, I realize that one of the reasons the right-wing establishment distrusts McCain is that people like me like him.


The last serious candidate with a shot to muck things up Bush-style, Mitt Romney, broke lots of right-leaning hearts when he dropped out of the race Thursday and, with his usual class, gave a Cheney-like speech in which he essentially argued that if the Democrats win, we're all gonna die.


Romney's drivel, however, did not constitute even the most nonsensical or most loathsome speech of last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Both those honors go to President Bush, who argued to thundering applause – while war continues to rage abroad and recession continues to creep up at home – that our “peace and prosperity” will be imperiled if a Democrat is elected to the White House. Like Orwell said, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”


But that's all the red meat that crowd will be getting for awhile. Let the 2008 Republican primaries be a lesson of what happens when one particular faction reaches the point when it is uncomfortable getting anything less than absolutely everything it wants – and none of the candidates running are remotely capable of giving it to them.


The conservative movement decided long ago that it would never accept anything less than a candidate in the tradition of their hero Ronald Reagan, both in ideology and in electability. Unfortunately for the GOP, however, each of the candidates running had something wrong with him that made him ineligible to be that man – and besides, in the divided America of the 21st Century, a landslide of Reagan-Mondale proportions is unlikely to ever occur again.


It’s really a shame for the Republicans that the one candidate who would have been sufficiently conservative, sufficiently electable, and sufficiently able to unite the party was all but prohibited from running. As Noemie Emery wrote in the Weekly Standard this week, if Jeb Bush’s name were Jeb Jones, McCain likely would have dropped out months ago.


But instead, he's almost certainly the nominee, and unlike the left in the last two elections, it's now the right having an argument with itself over whether it can wholeheartedly support its anointed candidate. Once we've reached the point where Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity are arguing with each other on national television over whether a conservative should vote for Hillary Clinton against John McCain, liberals can do little more than sit back, smile and chuckle uproariously.


So sorry, Republicans – you're going to have to get used to 1) not really liking your own candidate; and 2) losing. The Democrats long ago made peace with occasionally having to do both.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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