One reason to think McCain may yet win is that he didn’t seem to me to be merely distancing himself from the GOP establishment with his “reform” speech Thursday — it’s also a great way to appeal to what we not long ago called the Perot voters (populists who probably also like Palin). Remember the Perot voters?
McCain may send enough mixed signals to yoke together moderates, conservatives, paleoconservatives, some forgiving libertarians (with his veto and waste-cutting vows), Republicans who like the religious right, Republicans who don’t like the religious right (a tactically useful difference between him and Palin), and the fed-up populists who might in an alternate version of history have become repeat Reform Party voters (if the actual Reform Party weren’t so crazy it makes us libertarians look downright staid). That’s not a bad center-right coalition — one perhaps smaller but more motivated to vote than Obama’s much vaguer mosaic of optimists and change-seekers, many of whom (especially the young) I predict will forget to show up in November but will still smile warmly when they see pictures of Obama.
And at the risk of sounding like I irrationally retain some shred of optimism after all that’s gone wrong in the past couple decades: the aforementioned McCain coalition might actually accomplish something useful, depending on how it defines “reform.” If cleaning out the stables means cutting lots of pointless spending in Washington, McCain may redeem himself even in Matt Welch’s eyes.
If instead it means, for example, destroying the pharmaceutical industry (bad guys, as McCain calls them), well, we may all lose our eyes to macular degeneration or something.
Doubtless it will be a little of both, but there is just the tiniest hope — greater than any offered by Obama — that McCain (or Palin) might decide, say, that Social Security as we know it must end. I’m not holding my breath — just saying they’re at least a roll of the dice, while Obama is almost certainly politics as usual, or worse. (Note: Biden.)
Ted Nugent said on Glenn Beck’s show (the day of Palin’s selection) that he considers Bob Barr a friend but thinks the pragmatic thing to do is vote for McCain with the intention thereafter to “keep on his ass.” Not such a crazy position — but despite the ruminations above, I’m starting to think the simplest, easiest way to keep on the GOP’s ass is to just keep voting Libertarian (so quick! so effortless!), as I will have in half the presidential elections I’ve voted in (if you count my write-in for Dave Barry in 1992) if I stick with Barr.
A libertarian swing-voters sidenote: Palin’s appeal to the West seems like a smart move if you believe Ryan Sager’s 2006 analysis about the Republicans needing those libertarian-leaning but recently Dem-voting mountainfolk to survive. She “sure loves her some Jeebus,” as my friend Chris put it, but in more of a frontier way than a Southern way, which may end up being decisive.