Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Schadenfreude Election.

My dominant feeling this primary season has been schadenfreude. I've felt schadenfreude over the Democratic primaries for a number of reasons. There were the suspicions raised in New Hampshire because vote tallies appeared to differ between precincts that used machines and those that didn't. There was the undemocratic Nevada caucus where Hillary won the popular vote but Obama won the most delegates. There was the personal rancor between the frontrunners.

The identity politics of sex and race practiced by Democrats came home to roost with a vengeance within their own party. The divide began in New Hampshire when Hillary won the primary there despite predictions to the contrary from the opinion polls. This immediately raised the specter of racism. The high point was watching Chris Matthews speculate that Democratic voters told pollsters they would vote for a black politician but then in the privacy of the voting booth they gave their votes to the white politicians. If Matthews was right, that meant that all those middle-aged women who supported Clinton were closet racists.

The racial divide only increased in South Carolina when the Democratic vote split along racial lines with Obama getting 75 percent of the black vote and only 25 percent of the white vote. It got even more divisive later when Hispanics went in large numbers for Clinton. The racial angst in the Democratic primaries is the just desserts for a party that lives and dies on identity politics of race and sex.

Schadenfreude also grew from watching first Huckabee's and then McCain's rise to dominance within the Republican Party. Conservatives in the Republican Party have been tearing their hair out over the lack of a true conservative candidate and the rise of McCain. The problem is that conservatives have come to believe the Republican Party is the Conservative Party. Conservatives have forgotten that they are only a part of the Republican coalition and McCain's rise reminds them of that.

The conservative comeuppance is long overdue. For about two years now conservatives have been working to marginalize the Republican party by making it ideologically pure. I could not believe my eyes when I read Peggy Noonan turn on Bush after he said America would spend whatever it took to rebuild New Orleans. That Bush statement prompted Noonan to write that conservatives needed to speak out against big-government spending. What compassion. George Will wrote for years how America talked the talk in favor of small government but didn't walk the walk. When the Republicans caught on to that and elected George Bush, a poliician who recognized that reality, suddenly Will was aghast.

But the most damage conservatives have done to the GOP occurred when they embraced Pat Buchaninism and began their hysterical campaign against illegal immigrants. As far as I'm concerned, conservatives favor Pup Tent Republicanism. They want the party to be ideologically pure and if it means reading non-conservatives out of the party and losing an election, well, that's fine with them. I think they've got their heads in a place where the sun doesn't shine. The most important thing in politics is winning. You don't win by exclusion. You win by inclusion. That's what Big Tent Republicanism was all about. McCain represents Big Tent Republicanism. I hope he wins.

But schadenfreude has come home to roost on me because I have to say I give my vote to McCain reluctantly. He's made his career out of being the anti-Republican Republican and I don't particularly like that. He was not my first choice in this election. Rudy Giuliani was. But despite Rudy's pugnacious image he turned out not to be a fighter at all. He turned out to be a quitter. He decided on a bizzare campaign strategy of deliberately losing every election before Florida. It's no surprise that by the time Florida rolled around the candidates who had actually tried to win the early elections did better than he did. Who wants to give their vote to a loser? What is surprising is that he decided to quit.

Rudy's failure was disappointing and put me in a dilemma: vote for McCain or Romney. Neither candidate is ideal but both are good on the issue that matters most to me: the war against violent jihad. On other issues either is acceptable although Romney tends to be just a bit better. But McCain is better on immigration. Romney has aligned himself with the hysterical opponents of illegal immigration. His emrace of Pup Tent Republicanism disqualifies him for me.

So come Tuesday, I'm going to close one nostril and vote McCain.

-tdr

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