I voted for John McCain. I'd like to think it was a vote against Barack Obama, but that's just kidding myself. I've heard many Objectivists, conservatives, and libertarians say that they were going to vote for Obama and I was sympathetic to a point.
The rationale for such a counterintuitive move takes one of the following forms:
- Obama has never done anything in his life except fall into positions of power. He did nothing on the Harvard Law Review, he did barely anything while in the Illinois legislature, and he's voted present more than yes or no while in the Senate. He talks a great game, but if elected he'd probably spend most of his time campaigning for re-election.
- The Republicans in Congress would be forced into the role of the opposition party and would thus prevent his more egregious efforts towards socialism from bearing fruit.
- When America's economy is wrecked and our health care system is a-shambles, it'll be a socialist at the helm. No one can blame capitalism for the situation. So it should be the end of the century-long love affair with socialism in much the same way that the fall of the Soviet Union marked the end of Communism as a legitimate political viewpoint.
- Voting against McCain will send a message to the religious right that the party needs to return to its small government platform.
- McCain is an enemy of free speech as witnessed by his sponsorship and promotion of McCain-Feingold, the primary vehicle of campaign finance regulation. He should not be put in a position of even greater power.
In a rationalistic sense, each of these seem like a sensible strategy. Divorced from political reality, they're plausible. But in today's environment, they are completely irrelevant and futile—if not terribly naïve. Each one neglects crucial facts that both undermine and undercut their viability.
Obama hasn't accomplished much in his life, given the position he finds himself at today. To have risen so quickly, most people would have had a string of milestones or achievements that would inspire or earn respect. McCain's been a senator for a very long time and all of the other candidates, both Democrat and Republican, had relatively lengthy resumés behind them. Obama has none of that. So it's easy to underestimate his acumen or ambition. His "present" votes were politically shrewd and every step he's taken has seemed to be with an eye towards the presidency. He's made no move that would betray his carefully-crafted moderate politician persona—except maybe his ACORN litigation or his membership in the socialist New Party. If you read the story of ACORN's "inside strategy," you can easily recognize Obama's "lay low and get power" path. Ignore that at your own peril.
Often, the same people that argue for the Republicans as better in opposition to a Democrat president than when they're in power are the same ones who argue that the GOP has been co-opted by the religious right and have abandoned any limited government principles they may have once had. Expecting the Republicans in Congress to act as a bulwark against creeping (or galloping) socialism is investing in them an unwarranted hope. They have been ascendant in Congress for quite some time and they have brought the federal government to unprecedented spending and regulatory levels. To think that losing the presidency would make them do a double-take and wise up is ludicrous.
To be sure, Obama will wreck the economy and ruin the health care system. If he wins, his mandate as the first black president and a complicit Congress will insure that whatever he wants will sail through the legislature and into law. When his plans run into the inevitable obstacles (like crazies still expecting property rights to be upheld), he will have no trouble assigning blame to capitalism and those who want a free-for-all. He called the situation that led to the bailout plan the "final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed" even though it was demonstrably caused by government intervention. Others stepped up to agree with his assessment. There were voices raised at the absurdity of this, but they were few and far between. It certainly wasn't from Republicans in Congress.
If Obama wins, I can't see how the religious right will be cowed. McCain was not their darling—quite the opposite, in fact. I could easily see how they could declare that McCain lost precisely because he had alienated this supposedly all-important base of support. They won't vote for Obama, but they may withhold their vote and that may be enough to throw the election. Given how close Romney and Huckabee got to passing the primary test, I find it hard to believe that an Obama election will do anything but embolden the religious right.
Finally, my fellow travelers object to McCain's support of free-speech restrictions. I'm there: it is very disgusting to me that anyone could sponsor such ignoble legislation. The right of free speech is never so important as when it comes to the political sphere. But lets not give Barack Obama a pass on this one: he wants to bring criminal charges against an organization that produced an ad linking him to William Ayers, he's used his campaign as a way to shout down those who oppose him, and his party is chomping at the bit to restore the Fairness Doctrine, which he ostensibly opposes. There is reason to expect that the intolerant political correctness will be coming to the greater body politic: there's already some trial balloons floating about the "angry mob" that McCain-Palin is stirring and bringing out the H-word.
So that is why I couldn't possibly vote for Obama. I think he has covered his socialist trail well enough that he stands an excellent chance of getting elected, especially given his admirers within the media. Once in power, I predict that his true intentions will be revealed: we will start down the path that Europe has blazed for the last 75 years and plenty of new programs will be enacted that will be difficult to rescind. He's an avowed pragmatist whose political reality exists in the liberal atmosphere. (I won't even get into the cult of personality that freaks me out.) I cannot in good conscience help that one along in his quest for power over me even though McCain is terrible and I am sad that it comes down to this choice.
[UPDATE: Here's more about the Obama-ACORN link.]
[UPDATE (10/15/2008): More cult of personality creepiness.]