Democrats for McCain?
Don’t let the title fool you. My wife and I still support Senator Obama enthusiastically.
I wrote this piece, without the question mark, before his landslide in South Carolina, and before Frank Rich’s New York Times piece appeared on Sunday. I didn’t post it because South Carolina’s Democrats showed (overwhelmingly) that they understand the importance of virtue and can recognize it through all the “spin.”
But Democrats (and Republicans) everywhere need to know that there are real, flesh and blood, lifelong Democrats who will cross party lines and vote for John McCain if Democrats are so foolish as to nominate the Clintons.
We will do so not out of disappointment or spite, but out of careful analysis and firm conviction. We have read Plato and Socrates, and we know that no good can come from leaders without virtue. Here is our complete analysis:
As important as it is, this election is not about “experience” or competence. Any president can find experts throughout our great nation. All he or she needs is the wisdom and humility to seek and them out and follow their advice.
Nor is this election about policies. In the hands of politicians—let alone candidates—policies are malleable. Even the best and most constant respond to unforeseeable circumstances in unforeseeable ways. No one can rely on the sort of vague and half-baked promises that emerge from what passes for “debates.” We need something more than pabulum to decide who deserves our vote.
So how do we choose? My wife and I think this election is about virtue—that quaint notion of the ancient Greeks.
We have always admired John McCain. So, apparently, has everyone else. A halo of good will follows him wherever he goes, among his colleagues in Congress, the press, even his opponents. Few but the sleaziest and most obscure ever try to slime him.
And rightly so. McCain has virtue galore. It is as visible as the scars that torture left on his body and cancer left on his face.
He has one virtue unique among the entire field of candidates: physical courage. He is the only one who ever engaged in combat for country. For his courage he was tortured and gravely wounded.
While we don’t discount physical courage, we value moral courage even more highly. McCain has that, too. He has consistently fought the corruption that destroyed Rome, despite a party and a Supreme Court that are unable to unmask money disguised as “speech.” He was among the first Republicans to fight the fossil-fuel lobby for a sane energy policy. He gets global warming. He was the first Republican to recognize That Idiot Rumsfeld for what he is and demand his removal.
McCain has consistently supported a sane and humane immigration policy despite the damage doing so has done to his campaign. He even managed to get Dubya to sign up to condemning torture. And he did so amidst a misguided war that had become the sole basis for Dubya’s political survival.
We don’t agree with McCain’s views on the war in Iraq. While we would like to stabilize Iraq, we simply don’t think doing so is as important, for example, as crushing our own internal corruption or Al Qaeda in Pakistan. But we know that McCain understands, up close and personal, the sacrifices of our troops. We trust he will never take their heroism for granted, ignore their expert commanders, or use them as political props. And we are sure he will not forget them when they return home from war.
We are troubled by McCain’s two rare panders, on the Bush tax cuts and the religious right. But we think that is just what they are, panders. McCain has always kept his own counsel and avoided simplistic ideology. We also see his own bipartisan instincts and a Democratic Congress (which will almost certainly grow stronger next year) as proof against his pandering becoming policy.
We do not believe the economy is our most important challenge. We can survive a recession, even a deep one. We cannot survive another eight years of the moral bankruptcy and dereliction of principle from which this election is supposed to save us.
That’s why my wife and I—lifelong Democrats—will support the Clintons’ candidacy only under extreme circumstances. We will hold our noses and vote for Hillary only if Mitt is her opponent. While professing to be religious, Mitt is utterly devoid of virtue and principle. We think four years of him, let alone eight, would give our Republic the coup de grace. Fortunately, Rudy is no longer a similar threat; he will return to the obscurity he so richly deserves.
We do not for a moment see Hillary or Bill as racist. But that’s precisely what makes their betrayal of virtue so breathtaking. They cynically exploited (and thereby fostered) the still-powerful racism against which they had struggled their entire careers. Until South Carolina, that tactic appeared to be having its intended effect. It could still.
However Bill in his brilliance may rationalize that betrayal, it was entirely self-serving. The Clintons put themselves above their party, their principles, their legacy, and their country. We cannot forget that betrayal or stomach that sort of arrogance—and neither of us has any African blood.
In contrast, John McCain famously said it is better to lose an election than a war. He said so even when he was down and nearly out. We don’t agree with him on the importance of that war, but we admire his demonstration that he values principle and country above self.
McCain has shown that same virtue time and time again. So if the Democrats are foolish enough to nominate the Clintons and the Republicans wise enough to nominate McCain, our choice is clear.
We think many Democrats are like us. We hope Democrats concerned about “electability” will repent before it is too late. Obama’s overwhelming victory in South Carolina gives us hope. But the glitter of a woman in the White House seems to have blinded some voters to the importance of virtue. We hope the Clintons’ betrayal of virtue will make them think again.
Like McCain, Barack Obama personifies virtue. As Democrats, we prefer him. But if Obama is not to win the nomination this year, we can wait, and so can he.
Obama is young; McCain is old. McCain might not seek a second term. If he stumbled, Obama would be ready. In the meantime, we would have an honest man of self-evident virtue in the White House for a change. We could be proud of our country while a Democratic Congress checked ideological zeal. And we could wait patiently for the real change that will inevitably come with time.
South Carolina gave us hope. Crossing over may not be necessary. But make no mistake about it. If Democrats are blind to virtue and Republicans can see, we will cross party lines for the first time in our lives and support John McCain.