Column for 17 May, 2008
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Barring a miracle (or a catastrophe, depending on your point of view), the November presidential election will be between Barack Obama and John McCain. There will be some excitement, at least among the talking heads, over vice presidential picks, but keep two things in mind: first, vice presidential candidates have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the election. Don’t believe me? Two words: Dan Quayle. Second, both candidates’ choices will be driven by internal party politics. McCain will pick a running mate acceptable to the tele-Pharisees, Flat Earth Society members and tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy-theorists that comprise the shattered remnants of the Republic Party. Mike Huckabee? Maybe, though the Huck seems to be planning ahead for 2012 with the apocalyptic fringe that, according to Robert Novak, are resigned to an Obama presidency as God’s inevitable vengeance on a fallen nation. Yeah, drama much? Obama will pick someone acceptable to the Clinton wing of the party, though very likely not Hillary Clinton. Wesley Clark is a name that springs to mind. Obama may feel pressure to select a running mate with alleged appeal to ethnic Catholic and white rural Rust Belt voters, a constituency where he is notably weak. But, again: Dan Quayle. When Michael Dukakis selected Lloyd Bentsen in a bid for Southern votes, it was remarked that he could be running with Robert E. Lee and still lose everything south of the Mason-Dixon Line. As the real election season heats up, John McCain, who has done everything short of being adopted by George W. Bush in order to secure the nomination, will suddenly be stricken with a form of selective amnesia that obliterates any memory of the man who has been president for the last seven years. Instead, McCain will make a mad dash to the Left, or at least the Center, trying desperately to rekindle his largely media-fabricated image as a “maverick,” while Democrats attempt to hang the politically-toxic Bush around his neck like the proverbial albatross. We’re already seeing the first stages of this makeover, such as McCain’s condescending “whistle stop” tour through “poor America” and his rhetorical, if not actual, discovery of environmentalism. Be prepared for even more fawning, sycophantic “coverage” by the Mainstream Media claiming that McCain is “breaking with the Bush Administration.” Also, be prepared for this election to get real ugly, real fast. Your inboxes will be jammed to overflowing with anonymous emails claiming that Barack Obama is a Muslim or a communist or a homosexual or all of the above. Protestant Evangelical churches will be dutifully flooded with propaganda from James Dobson or other similar troglodytes, “non-partisan” “voting guides” that show in a “non-partisan” manner that Obama is a Muslim, communist homosexual. And also possibly French. Be prepared for repeated instances of minor Republican flunkies making outrageously offensive public pronouncements, only to provide McCain with the opportunity to righteously denounce them. No attempt will be spared to appeal to that nasty, hidden underground strain of our national life that equates “American” with “white.” Rush Limbaugh singing “Barack the Magic Negro” will seem subtle and understated by comparison. Trying to frighten voters with Obama and/or the feckless self-aggrandizing blowhard Jeremiah Wright has failed spectacularly in several recent special Congressional elections, but no matter. And woe be unto anyone who claims that such tactics are “racist”; they will be lambasted and denounced for their “divisiveness” from every television screen, computer and radio in the land, since in Bizarro world it is a far worse sin to accuse someone of racism than to actually be racist. Also, there’s no such thing as racism anymore. And it’s the blacks who are racist anyway. That’s what’s going to pass for political dialogue. That and seeing John McCain covered head-to-toe in American flag lapel pins at every photo op. The Democrats, meanwhile, in addition to pointing out that a McCain Presidency would be like a third term for George W. Bush only without the restraint or competence, will try to subtly suggest that McCain is as old as Methuselah or Dick Clark with the disposition of a cranky rhinoceros in the national china Shoppe. Obama enthusiasts have pushed the case that their man changes the entire electoral landscape, putting states like Virginia or even Texas in play. I remain respectfully skeptical. It could be potentially disastrous for Obama to spend time fighting for Red states in which he has polled reasonably well, such as North and South Carolina, Virginia and Nebraska, to the exclusion of more reliably blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Polling in Ohio is incredibly contradictory, with Obama tying McCain but Clinton trouncing him by ten percentage points. Given the fact that nearly every single Republican elected official in Ohio is currently under indictment, I have a hard time seeing those figures as too reliable. In Texas, two recent polls have put Democratic Senate candidate Rick Noriega within striking distance of John Cornyn, who remains only marginally more popular than heat rash. The Rasmussen poll (which tends to skew Republican) shows Obama within five percentage points of McCain. Does this mean Obama could be the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to carry the state? Probably not, but the mere threat of it could force McCain to expend scarce resources here. I hate to make a habit of agreeing with Karl Rove, if only because his crystal ball has been seriously cracked since 2006, but I tend to think he’s right that the 2008 election will be fought mostly in the same battleground states as 2000 and 2004 (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa) with a possible expansion into Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Now all we have to do is wait and see just how wrong I turn out to be.