Monday, February 4, 2008

In the long run, it is better for McCain to lose
Mike Rappaport

In my last post, I explained why John McCain’s policy positions render him unacceptable to me. Here, I respond to what might seem like the strongest argument for McCain: that he has the best chance of beating the Democrats. 

When I say to other Republicans that I oppose McCain, I am often asked, “But don’t you think McCain is better than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? I must admit that however little I like McCain’s positions, I do like them quite a bit more than Clinton’s and Obama’s. But that is the not the entire issue. The question is not merely who do you like better; it is also where do you want the Republican party to be in four years from now? 

If McCain wins, the Republicans will have a President who pursues a set of policies that will include many undesirable things.  This will have one of two effects (or possibly a combination). Either the Republicans will be transformed to the party of these undesirable things – campaign finance, more regulation, which is a really bad thing – or they will fight among themselves, greatly weakening the McCain presidency. In either event, the McCain presidency is unlikely to be successful from the perspective of a free market Republican – it either will pursue bad policies or will be ineffective. If, as seems likely, those policies turn out to be unsuccessful, it will be the Republicans who will be blamed for them. 

Compare this to the situation if the Republicans lose. If Hillary is the President, there is a good chance – a very good chance – that the Democrats will govern poorly. Watching Bill Clinton serve as First House Husband is likely to turn the nation off. More importantly, the big government liberal policies of the past were rejected for a reason – they don’t work. The nation does not seem to remember this lesson, but they will learn it again. The last time a Clinton served in the White House with a Democratic Congress, although different in many ways, did not turn out badly for Newt Gingrich and Free Market Republicans. Moreover, under Hillary, the Republicans will be forced to regroup and rethink. They will purge the opportunists and become better again – just as they did in 1995. 

If we focus on 2012, there is a choice. Do we want the Republicans to run John McCain again,  following a poor presidency? Or do we want a reinvented and reinvigorated Republican party that runs someone who believes in the right things? To ask the question is to answer it.

This argument requires that one postpone gratification – that one focus on the future rather than the present. But that should not be hard for conservatives and libertarians, both of whom are quite comfortable with long run arguments. Sadly, the nation appears to have turned left and there is not much that can be done now. The best option at this point is to regroup and to be ready to fight in 2012.

Of course, there is the matter of Iraq and the War against Islamic Extremists. Yes, John McCain would be better in Iraq. But I don’t believe that Hillary will pull out the troops quickly in Iraq. Once elected, she is likely to proceed as Nixon did in Viet Nam (how funny that Hillary is like Nixon in so many ways!) She will act gradually to ensure that there is “peace with honor” (of course, she will not say that). If Obama is elected, that is a less happy story. He might try to withdraw more quickly. But if he does, the results will come back to bite him (and sadly us). He will be a one term president for sure then.

I am not happy about this situation. I would rather be electing Ronald Reagan again. But there is no Ronald Reagan this time, and the nation would not elect a new Ronald Regan again this time either. Sadly, Jimmy Carter had to be President for Ronald Reagan to be President. Our best option is to prepare for 2012.

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Mike Rappaport


One subject this rebuttal doesn't cover is judicial appointments. The possibility of one or two USSC vacancies under Hillary or Obama is very frightening.

Posted by: CJS | Feb 4, 2008 2:20:01 PM

As much as Republican candidates may be 'inadequate', I prefer a poor Republican to any Democrat, primarily because I expect a continuing Democratic majority in Congress. Our current semi-paralysis is far better than the programs the Democrats would pass with both the Congress and the Presidency.

Posted by: JohnS | Feb 4, 2008 2:23:22 PM

Although the supreme court appointment issue is definitely a concern, it's less of one for me than it otherwise might be because I can't see McCain nominating a Justice who would vote to strike down McCain/Feingold, and I can't see myself being all that crazy about a nominee who would be unlikely to strike down McCain/Feingold. (I am guessing such a nominee would be a blank slate along the lines of Souter, and we know how that turned out.)

I also tend to agree with Mike because (although he doesn't say this and may not believe it) the GWB presidency has itself been pretty poor for us libertarian-leaning conservatives, what with the failure to veto McCain/Feingold (or pretty much anything else, really), the prescription drug benefit bill, etc. Another four years of that would be disastrous.

Posted by: salaryman | Feb 4, 2008 2:45:27 PM

CJS and JohnS:

Fine, work for getting Republicans elected to the Senate. Esp. Republicans who will filibuster everything in sight.

How much has Bush had to veto this year? How many bad ideas simply haven't made it out of the Senate?

Just imagine the hearings: "Mr(s) Supreme Court Nominee, do you consider yourself bound by the written words of the US Constitution? Or are you a would-be dictator who will rewrite our laws and Constitution to persue your personal political agenda?"

This is not an argument the Democrats can win, if the Republicans are willing to push it. So vote for R senators who are willing to push it.

Posted by: Greg D | Feb 4, 2008 5:35:46 PM

Thank you Greg D. I wish I could vote for Republican Senatorial candidates. Unfortunately, I live in California.

Republican congress-persons appear to take some kind of strength from even such a leader as George Bush. I tend to agree with Thomas Paine, that 'that government is best which governs least."; a Congress and President at loggerheads suits me fine.

Posted by: JohnS | Feb 4, 2008 8:33:08 PM

I fully agree with everything you stated. Moreover, there may be a recession coming and it, plus any failures in dealing with it, will be blamed on the Democrats. This should swing Congress sharply right, bringing balance back to the universe.

Posted by: Sam Goble | Feb 4, 2008 11:20:20 PM

One argument in favor of the Democrats this election, as in the last two elections, is that they won't be much, if any, worse than the Republicans, and if the Republicans do bad things we--free market supporters--will get blamed, since Republicans use free market rhetoric and are widely, if mistakenly, viewed as supporters of the market.

Posted by: David Friedman | Feb 4, 2008 11:41:18 PM

Funny that your are so skeptical of McCain running an even moderately conservative administration, but so willing to blindly hope HRC wont toss Iraq to the wolves.

Moreover- what kind of movement espouses the strategy of letting the other side screw things up so we can fix it later? Thats not what i would describe as progess.

McCain isnt going to institute nationalized healthcare. Obama or HRC will do it their first year in office with their Democratic congress. That is an eventuality, not a prediction. McCain wont pull out of Iraq. HRC and Obama have both sworn to immeditiately. We're supposed to hang our hats on HOPING HRC will break her campaign promise?

All the other issue you are correct on, but they are dwarfed by the importance of winning in Iraq and preventing a government takeover of healthcare with another entitlement we cant remotely afford.

Posted by: Mark Buehner | Feb 5, 2008 7:58:49 AM

Exactly. Alcoholics wake up each morning jittery, and their fix for the jitteries is more booze -- which is the direct cause of tomorrow's jitteries. The only way to get off alcohol is to go through withdrawal. It's painful, but when it's're off the bad stuff.

Republicans keep getting told, vote for these RINO guys, or the dems will win and you'll have the jitters. Fuck it. I'm tired of the bad stuff. With John McCain I've hit rock bottom. I'm ready for a couple years of jitters, in the expectation it will get us off RINO.

Posted by: Read to Detox | Feb 5, 2008 8:04:10 AM

Hope you feel the same way when you're waiting in line for your government mandated checkups.

Posted by: Mark Buehner | Feb 5, 2008 8:07:10 AM

Bad things happen when you take your eys off the ball. Republicans need to focus on winning this presidential election, not the one in 2012. Even if all of what you say is true, you would be sacrificing a possible near term benefit for an uncertain long term benefit. It's too complicated; it's pie in the sky. Win now and try to reinvigorate the Republican part during a McCain presidency.

Posted by: john | Feb 5, 2008 9:11:13 AM

Just a few questions. One thing I worry about is the media playing pin the tail on the donkey with McCain. With a Democrat congress and, say, McCain the president, who will take the blame if Congress screws up? I would not be surprised if the media throws their beloved McCain to the wolves just to save the integrity of Congress. What can the party do, or what sort of candidate can help prevent this from happening? It will take a very vocal and articulate president that can get past the media and can not be confused with the Democratic policies. Could we untangle McCain policies from those of the Democrats? Would McCain stand up to universal healthcare, or mitigate with the Democrats, which means make it 90 percent liberal big government solution and 10 percent conservative (i.e. the governor's healthcare plan)? I am curious what sort of remolding we have done when we had some sort of power. For example, would we ever boot McCain from a second term?

Posted by: Christopher Heinsen | Feb 5, 2008 10:18:21 PM

Looking back, I seriously wish McCain had been President when 9/11 happened. I think he would have handled the situation swiftly, and our country would be safer as a result. With his background, I am sure he would have made sure he would have made the right decisions. Even now, I feel if we are still truly passionate about finding the wereabouts of Osama Bin Ladin, he is the man to get it done right. I think the only problem for his Presidential campaign will be the fact, that we have been at war for a while now, without showing any real end in site. He understands more than anyone, that war cannot be stopped, just because we are sick of it. On a side note, since I have been following the race so close this year, it does has me wandering where they find all these new political news women. I'm seriously impressed with their credibility and confidence. They got alot of them at

Posted by: Johnny | Feb 19, 2008 11:21:46 AM

They throw their shadows before them who carry their lantern on their back. That I exist is a perpetual surprise which is life. Do you understand?

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