Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

28 January 2008

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.


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  • At Monday, January 28, 2008 at 3:27:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're not alone. My whole family is the same way: ardent Obama supporters, donors, and even volunteers, lifelong Democrats, who will not support the Clintons against McCain.

    For me, the clincher is process reform. It's the main reason I'm behind Obama: his understanding of the need to fix the system so that it's more transparent, citizens have more power, lobbyists have less, and Congress stops squabbling for scraps of pork. McCain shares that understanding, whereas Hillary feels she's paid her dues learning the corrupt system and this is her time to cash in and exploit it. She'll never change something that works so much to her benefit. I was strongly anti-McCain for a while after he supported Bush in 2004, but like you I came around to forgiving him for that self-preserving bit of pandering.

    Hillary and Edwards supports like to claim that their candidates speak more about bread and butter issues. I don't agree, but I respond that you can't bake bread with a broken oven. Repair the system and the policy fights become much, much easier. Obama understands this; Edwards does, too, to a lesser extent, and so does McCain in his own way. Hillary does not.

    I expect to have a Democratic Congress, and I would expect a McCain administration to push hardest on issues where he's got some common ground with the Democrats. I would expect to see progress on ethics reform and clean energy. It's good stuff.

    I still really don't want to have to make that choice. Obama is orders of magnitude better than McCain. But if he doesn't get the nomination nod and Hillary does, McCain is the best choice.

  • At Monday, January 28, 2008 at 10:12:00 AM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    Thank you for your insightful comment.

    I agree with you about process, but I think it’s much more than that.

    As I’ve written in a separate post, we Boomers may be the most pampered and self-indulgent generation in American history. Our quest for equal opportunity was the one thing that we could be truly proud of. Most of the other good things that our generation seemed to bring—prosperity, innovation, and the Internet—owed more to the private sector than to politics. We were fine at bringing positive change when it also made us money.

    In their unseemly rush to retain their weakening grip on power, the Clintons are trampling the Boomers’ proudest legacy underfoot.

    They are players in a Shakespearean tragedy. Hillary, not Obama, is Othello; the Clintons’ tragic flaws not are not jealousy, but hubris and ambition.

    We all know how this tragedy will end. As pundits have pointed out, Hillary has yet to garner more than a rough third of the vote in any electoral contest. She will get far less in the general election, when Republicans and conservatives have a say.

    Conservatives’ principal objection to the Clintons has always been a lack of virtue and self-restraint. They have a point. I hope more Democrats will see that point before we pass up our greatest chance to make positive change in two generations.


  • At Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 12:23:00 AM EDT, Blogger CJCalgirl said…

    Dear Jay, Reading your blog on McCain, (it is April 22 today), I wonder, Do you still feel the same? I can't respect Hillary on nearly every level, but McCain seems less intelligent, less stalwart, just less. He voted NO on a bill to help the vets returning wounded, and while I have not read the bill myself, he has yet to explain his choice, and I'm thinking he is hoping no one noticed. He does not (by his own admission) understand our economic woes, and has stupidly suggested we should cut federal gas tax as an economic relief (for the summer only). This is not the Long-term-thinker I am looking for. Barack seems to be the only choice for any logical person, and yet I fear the electorate-at-large do not grasp the value of what he offers. No one can save us but ourselves and I fear that the last twenty or thirty years of the degradation of our public education system have produced a population too uneducated and too emotional to think, and therefore, vote clearly in their best interests. I fear we are doomed to go the way of Rome.

  • At Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 2:23:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi there,

    Found your site by googling "Democrats for McCain" and just wanted to let you know that I am absolutely going to vote for McCain now that it looks like Obama will be the nominee. People like you have driven me from the Democratic Party, have fun with the rest of the latte drinking idiots and Donna Brazile, since that is the full scope of your coalition. Good luck with that.
    Go McCain!

  • At Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 12:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    Dear Anonymous,

    I can live with McCain. For reasons explained in another post, I doubt I (or any of us) could live with Hillary.

    As for you, your comment has a strong stink of Rush Limbaugh, racial prejudice, or both. If you’d rather your country be led badly by someone who is 100% white than well by someone who’s half white and half black, that’s your privilege. The rest of us are neither that stupid nor that short-sighted.

    On the other hand, if you’d like to learn who Obama really is, you can start with the reading list I’ve recommended. Donna Brazile is not on his team and won’t be in his Cabinet.


    P.S. I don’t drink latte, but I do recognize talent.


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