Monday, January 28, 2008

Dem, LP, and GOP Observations: Romney

The Democrats: Slate’s smart and moderate Mickey Kaus says the best thing for Obama’s campaign would be for him to become the (black) anti-affirmative action candidate, not so unlike the suggestion I made recently. It would certainly be a neat way of underscoring the idea that Hillary is both the establishment candidate and the scary-leftist in this campaign, not him.

The Libertarian Party: As if engaged in self-parody, the LP candidates who have thus far declared (with the nominee to be chosen in May in Denver) are (a) a gambling odds-maker, (b) a California pot-smoker with cancer, (c) a Northeastern antiwar physics professor, and (d) a dopey-sounding businessman who wants the FDA to extract more money from pharmaceutical companies (which doesn’t seem very libertarian to me). The gambling odds-maker, Wayne Allyn Root, actually strikes me as the most credible, which isn’t saying much. So — unless they throw a Nader-sized wrench into the election by drafting Ron Paul — that brings limited-government fans back, wearily, like an abused spouse, to…

The Republicans: It’s looking like Florida’s primary tomorrow may confirm it’s a two-man race between McCain and Romney on the Republican side, so, in one order or the other, perhaps they’ll both end up on the ticket.

Huckabee, it seems, was acceptable only to the religious-partisan Republicans and Giuliani only acceptable to the Republicans (like me) who don’t much care about religion (this blog’s “Month Without God” begins this Friday, after all). A gung-ho Catholic-conservative co-worker and I pretty much demonstrate why neither Huckabee nor Giuliani can win: though we’re both registered Republicans, I’ve vowed not to vote for Huckabee, and she’s vowed not to vote for Giuliani. The End for both of them, I think, though I’m no polling agency, and my co-worker and I are admittedly a sample of N = 2.

•We do have a perpetually BlackBerry-checking co-worker who’s gung-ho for Giuliani, and I couldn’t help thinking of him when Peggy Noonan wrote recently that Giuliani struck her as having a large number of supporters at an appearance of his she attended over the summer, but they all seemed to be ignoring Giuliani and checking their BlackBerrys — instead of getting fired up like, say, Huckabee supporters. The New York fiscal-conservative candidate has to fit into some very tight, cold-hearted yuppie schedules, whereas I’ll bet, say, Kuncinich supporters have a lot more spare time on their hands to fan the flames of political passion.

•So, if fiscal conservatives want to have a real impact, perhaps our (pathetic) fallback position at this point has to be voting for Romney, the one candidate who can fend off McCain (though we may regret that, if Romney fares worse in the general election, since we’ll need those independents who love McCain — and if McCain merely becomes v.p., it seems unlikely he’d be young enough to run for president after a Romney administration, whereas Romney works just fine as a “legacy” for President McCain). As a friend of mine said (indeed, the same one who posed the “sweetest taboo” question in my prior blog entry), the tough McCain/Romney choice is sort of a choice between a man who seems to believe some conservative things strongly and some liberal things strongly vs. a man who doesn’t seem to believe much of anything strongly. Hard to decide which is worse.

Romney 2008: Given the ambiguity, though, perhaps in next week’s New York primary I should at least cast a vote for the man in that pair who is more widely perceived as fiscally-focused — Romney — to help pull the Republicans some small way back toward focusing on the economic issues that should be their strength instead of the war/populist stuff that may only lead to more trouble.

All right, then: the unwavering and principled has now gone Giuliani > Paul > Giuliani? > Thompson > McCain > don’t vote? > LP? > Romney. My apologies to National Review for not backing their man Romney in the first place. (For sales-maximizing purposes, I highly recommend that The Weekly Standard endorse McCain and then spend the rest of the primary season in an ugly pseudo-spat with NR about it, if any of my acquaintances at either magazine are reading this. I’m also looking forward to all those NR essays about Mormonism being the glorious, logical fulfillment of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.)

Advice for My New Candidate Pick: And Romney should focus his whole remaining campaign on the idea of bringing fiscal stability to the U.S., calming those panicked, Dow-watching Wall Streeters who liked Rudy and those panicked, inflation-fearing Main Streeters who liked Huck — maybe even picking up some fiscal-insolvency-decrying ex-Paulistas while he’s at it — while trying to sound a bit less pleasant/presentable/diplomatic and a bit more like he can make the tough decisions (principally about Social Security and Medicare) that McCain might well make along with numerous bad decisions.

But then, I think the time for talking about “reforming” Social Security and Medicare passed with the nation’s tragic failure to embrace Bush’s partial-privatization plans. You all laughed at him and spent eight years calling him dumb, but now I think we’re fiscally screwed and it’s time to start talking about abolishing Social Security and Medicare, not reforming them.

Luckily for the candidates, none of them have me as a speechwriter or campaign advisor, though. Keep on smiling, keep on shaking hands, brighter tomorrow, everything’s gonna be fine…

UPDATE: No sooner do I drift to Romney than Deroy Murdock argues that he’s the worst of McCain, Giuliani, and Romney — by fiscal standards.  I think I’ll just give up and talk about religion and atheism for a month instead (while Romney and others mourn the death of the president of the Mormon church, as it happens).


--Brad said...

When the largest voting block out there relies on Social Security and Medicare, I can only say good luck with that discussion.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, you’d have to promise to grandfather them in, no pun intended.

dave said...

What are your thoughts should Bloomberg throw his hat in? And is that likely to happen?

Todd Seavey said...

I don’t pretend to have any special insight, but the idea of Bloomberg running for president has always seemed completely absurd to me.

We’re seeing today that even a much higher-profile mayor of New York City may not have what it takes even to win over his own party; Bloomberg seems particularly uncharismatic, scolding, and schoolmarmish to me (banning trans fat, raising taxes, nasally haranguing the populace about this and that); and with no clear public demand for him to run, I can’t imagine him functioning as anything more than a spoiler, which seems like a bigger waste of time than he’d countenance, given that he has no clear-cut “crusade” he’s willing to waste a year of his life for (in the way that a Pat Buchanan is willing to make a quixotic run to get the paleocon message across or what have you).

I predict he does nothing. And personally, of course, I’d see him as just one more RINO in the race, and we have plenty of those this year already (not that a textbook-definition Republican is exactly ideal either).

Todd Seavey said...

I should add that I suspect the idea of a Bloomberg run seems more plausible to New Yorkers who pay attention to either media or money (which is to say, both halves of the employed population here) than it does to the average Joe, which may be artificially boosting his appearance of significance.

But then, I was sort of rooting for Paul, Thompson, Giuliani, or a good LP candidate, so what do I know?

Christopher said...

“I’d see him as just one more RINO in the race, and we have plenty of those this year already ”

Wouldn’t he be more of an ex-RINO, as he’s officially left that party? (I find the term RINO, which in practice means “anyone who doesn’t kiss Limbaugh’s ass and suck up to Fox News” an annoying and useless term. In its heyday it seemed to mean any republican who disagreed with Bush on any major issue. I’ve noticed that with most of the party fleeing association with Bush like he was a child-molester, it doesn’t appear much on right-leaning blogs nearly as much as 4 years ago or so.)

You’re right that it would be insane for Bloomberg to run. No shot whatsoever. He’s got to have better things to do with his ample money and time.

Todd Seavey said...

Yes, ex-RINO running as an independent (if he runs) — but no less absurd for it and a textbook example of a RINO during his ongoing mayoralty, very much a reminder why the acronym is useful — since the public deserves some sort of meaningful party labels, I’d say, yet there are politicians with no interest in party labels beyond boosting their brand recognition. Let the Chafees and Snowes of this world become Democrats if they want to show the courage of their convictions.

(And some would add McCain, of course, so maybe he — even more than Bush — will finally render party/ideology synonymity as weak as it was in the days of Eisenhower, likely to the detriment of clear philosophical discussion in the U.S. and benefit of mere tribal/team identification.)

Christopher said...

What would you call someone who is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, against affirmative action, against hate crime legislation, religious in the way Bush senior was religious (loves his god but doesn’t talk about it, and doesn’t mention Jesus), against the war on Iraq but for the invasion of Afghanistan, and generally fiscally conservative in a Bill Weld kind of way? Should that person not run as a republican? Talk radio would surely label such a politician a RINO yet he or she would come pretty close to your perfect candidate, would they not?

I’m also pretty surprised to hear you say “the public deserves some sort of meaningful party labels.” Do you really think parties themselves the way they presently function in the US are that important and useful?

Todd Seavey said...

Conservatives who have bothered to address such cases have generally been pretty good about differentiating between fiscal conservatives and just-plain non-conservatives, though I can’t pretend to have tracked every instance of the word “RINO” being used. Plainly, though, it gets deployed against tax-increasers and the like, not just (largely hypothetical) libertarians.

Would that there were enough candidates like the one you describe to be a significant part of the conversation — generally, the politicians mushy on some issues where we might welcome a bit of mushiness are also mushy and unprincipled on all the ones where we want some rigidity.

Surveys show there is little hope of more than a minuscule fraction of the population keeping track of issues or individual candidates but slightly more hope of the public tracking party names, so it would be useful if those party labels actually told you what you were “buying,” yes.

This seems to be an argument about whether a label for those who are already falsely labeled is likely to be hastily deployed against hypothetical politicians who I — but not all people who deploy the first label (and arguably have a right to use it for ends slightly different from my own if they want to) — might like. Which may be a bit too meta to be productive.

More to the point: Fiscal lefties: bad.