Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Current Mess, the Timeless Political Basics

In yesterday’s entry, I described the origins of my concern that conservatives are out of touch with popular culture. As it happens, today I read that John McCain is something of a counterexample and is courting the timely anti-zombie vote. In a similar fashion, back during his previous presidential bid in 2000, he likened himself to Luke Skywalker trying to escape the Death Star of Washington bureaucracy and corruption (or as Gersh Kuntzman put it, McCain saw himself fighting the Iron Triangle of politicians, lobbyists, and Imperial Battle Droids).

So if all I cared about were pop-culture savvy, McCain would be rising in my estimation (he is at least making a strong pitch for the nerd vote), though dreaded Huckabee’s use of supporters such as Chuck Norris would still make him a strong contender — and Ron Paul would remain my first choice, simply for shaking hands with Johnny Rotten, even though Paul in all likelihood had no idea who the Sex Pistols were before that.

In truth, though, trivial pop concerns aside, I think I’d take Giuliani or Romney over McCain (and a Paul or Thompson last-minute rally would be even better, but we’ll probably know by next week whether there’s much hope of that) and any of the aforementioned pols over Huckabee. Contrary to the impression created by his preacher credentials, I think Huckabee is an unprincipled opportunist, willing to say he’s a radical when that sells, say he’s a moderate when that sells, and give crowd-pleasing speeches affirming the fact that he likes morality (who doesn’t?) and cake (though not as much as he used to!) without going into too much policy detail. And when he does go into policy detail, he sounds dangerously populist — socially conservative and fiscally “progressive,” more or less the opposite of what I want in a government. That’s the formula that could actually render the right a bigger threat than the left if taken to its logical conclusion, though I trust it won’t be (that populist combo pleases “crunchy con” Rod Dreher, though — yet he, too, likes Ron Paul, a paradox that surprises me in much the same way that my first-choice-Paul/second-choice-Giuliani position surprises some of my acquaintances who see those two as opposites).

But to get back to McCain for a moment: If he suddenly emerges as the winner in all this, he too will likely continue to display opportunistic authoritarian tendencies (stifling campaign speech in the name of “reform,” pushing popular but unscientific approaches to global warming, trying to ban Ultimate Fighting), but at least he has some stubbornly-held principles, budget-cutting among them, and that one’s my favorite, so I could even live with a President McCain, I expect.

But what do I really want in politics? I am deeply indebted to Prof. Alan Charles Kors, from whom I will borrow the framing device of a very short history of the universe in order to answer that question in under 500 words — tomorrow. Stay tuned…

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