November 4, 2008 [LINK / comment]
McCain and the centrist voters
Can John McCain perform a miracle? Can he actually rally the conservative base of the Republican Party while stealing the Democrats' thunder on the issue of national service?
It is widely agreed that John McCain's big advantage as a candidate is that he is held in high esteem by voters in the center of the political spectrum. Yet somehow, that emphasis has been lost in the shuffle during the fall campaign, as McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin have put most of their effort into shoring up their support among the Republican Party's conservative base. This is a supremely ironic situation. Normally, a candidate can count on his own party's support, and then tries to build a winning majority by reaching out to other groups. In this year's campaign, however, McCain seemed to assume that he would get a large share of the independent vote but had to work hard to "get out the vote" among Republicans. It will be interesting to find out who came up with that brilliant strategy.
Why is appealing to independent voters regarded with such disfavor in Republican circles these days? In the end, this approach leads to greater polarization, making our country weaker at an especially vulnerable moment in history.
The Palin factor
Columnist Froma Harrop wrote that "Palin drove stake into centrists' hearts," disappointing those of us who hoped she could expand the Republican voter base. In that regard, I need to admit an error in judgment about Palin. On September 5 I was quoted in the News Leader, "Palin is more likely to draw nonpartisan, independent-minded voters than people who are committed in one way or another." Actually, she redoubled the Republican emphasis on "getting out the vote" among the ideologically committed right-leaning core of the party, with a populist touch, while saying very little that might attract those outside the party. It was a strategy doomed to failure.
In this historic campaign ends, I have a wistful feeling, recalling the warm, good vibes among Republicans after Bush's reelection in 2004, and lamenting what has happened to us since then. This election reminds me most of 1996, when I was proud to vote for war hero Bob Dole, even though his campaign was rather mediocre. Likewise, I am very proud to have supported John McCain -- "putting country first" -- even though I wish he had done a better job.
A variety of organizations, not affiliated with the McCain campaign, have been running some TV ads attacking Obama's credentials and suspicious background. It raises questions about accountability and campaign financing, but Obama's huge success in fund-raising means that reform will be put on the back burner, which is probably just as well. Some of those can be seen as video clips at www.neverfindout.org.
The 2008 election reminds New York Times columnist Frank Rich of the 1967 movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, about interracial marriage and liberal hypocrisy. I remember going to that movie vividly, as I became conscious of social and political issues in that tumultuous era. Hat tip to Connie.
Some may ponder whether Obama is the Anti-Christ, but I don't think it does any good to fret about worst-case scenarios. Having been on the winning end and losing end of recent political battles, I know how important it is for all contenders to show grace and respect toward one's opponents. Much as I cringe at the thought of what Obama may bring, if he does win, I intend to give him the benefit of the doubt at least for a few months, and I hope that Republican leaders give him a chance to get something done for the sake of the country.
Finally, how's this for an advertisment:
Barack Obama: He may not have enough experience to serve as president, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!
Brokaw speech photos
I didn't have enough time to give adequate treatment to Tom Brokaw's lecture at the University of South Dakota last week. Brokaw spoke at the Neuharth Media Center, which was dediated in 2003. It is named for benefactor Al Neuharth, of USA Today. Brokaw said that independent voters were the key