Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Lesser of Two Evils" Politics

I came across this item in the Financial Times blog which I decided to share here.

There are few politicians of more disparate philosophies than Barack Obama and George W. Bush. So, I'm intrigued by the fact that Bush reportedly said he would have endorsed Obama instead of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain had he been asked, and that he "probably won't even vote" for McCain. I'm guessing McCain's underwhelming candidacy, as well as past bitterness stemming from the 2000 GOP South Carolina primary, was the genesis of Bush's cross-party musings.

Now, I'm sure Obama would not have especially welcomed a Bush endorsement, but that's beside the point.

These "lesser of two evils" situations that occasionally arise in politics are quite interesting. The recent Delaware senate race pitting a self-described "Marxist" against Christine "I'm Not A Witch" O'Donnell is the most recent example. The infamous Louisiana governor's race between Edwin "The Crook" Edwards and David "The Klansman" Duke is the most famous one.

Speaking of 2008, I experienced my own "lesser of two evils" moment that year.

By way of background, I have voted in every general and most primary elections since 1984. Never once have I voted for a Democrat for any federal office. That includes 2008, when - despite the pleadings of my many thoughtful liberal friends - I held my nose and voted for John McCain.

But, I must confess...during the protracted Democratic presidential primary battle, I did donate a small amount of money to Barack Obama.

I know...this will seem like heresy to my fellow GOPers. Indeed, I noticed that an anonymous poster on the Baltimore Sun web site critiquing my op-ed analyzing the mistakes made by Team Ehrlich cited this as apparent proof that I am not a "real" Republican. This is a frequent tactic in politics, not to mention a hallmark of the Clinton White House: When you can't rebut someone's arguments, attack them personally. 

When I saw the Bush-Obama blog posting, it occurred to me that it presented an opportunity for me to  respond. So, I made the decision to donate to Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary season for two reasons:

1) It was obvious that 2008 was going to be a Democratic year, and I judged Obama - who seems like an affable, well-meaning, liberal ideologue - to be better than his opponent on a personal if not a political basis; and

2) His opponent was Hillary Clinton.

I have a strong aversion to Mrs. Clinton, who played the role of Lady Macbeth in her husband's administration to great effect. She is every bit as much a Darth Vader figure to Republicans like me as Richard Nixon was to Democrats. The thought of her and her husband's scandal-plagued handlers riding back into town - this time with a Democratic Congress ready to look the other way - disturbed me.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, had Lucifer been Mrs. Clinton's challenger, I might have opened my checkbook for him, too.

I am sure I am not the only Republican who made that calculation in 2008. And, looking at how things have turned out, Republicans are - politically speaking, at least - probably in a better situation than they would have been if the dirty crew from Arkansas was back in the White House.

A President Hillary would have done the same misguided things - such as ramming a healthcare law for which there was no national consensus down citizen's throats - that Obama has done. But she would have done it with greater guile and political skill.

By contrast, President Obama's absense of executive experience has contributed to a growing sense that his is an in-over-his head presidency. Two years are a lifetime in politics, but I think there is a high probability that Obama will be a one-term president absent some major course correcting. Minimally, there are states Obama won last time (IN, NV, NC, OH, VA) that he can't win again, as well as those (NH, PA, FL) he probably won't win again. Do the electoral math and that makes for a very tight election.

By contrast, the Clintons - masters of triangulation, scandal deflection, parsing words, and other political dark arts - know how to win at any cost.

So, I can't sit here and say that the "lesser of two evils" calculations I made two years ago were necessarily wrong. I'm just looking ahead to the time that I have a candidate at the presidential level I'm enthusiastic about voting for, instead of someone I'm chomping at the bit to help defeat. For me, it's been a very long time.


  1. I'm an admirer of your blog. I admire your candor. You may be right about Hillary. That said, donating one red cent to Obama was a STUPID thing to do.

  2. Couldn't disagree more, RJC.

    Clinton (Bill) was a left of center pragmatist. His wife was and is more ideological but neither of them are as committed to left-wing orthodoxy as Obama. He lives and breathes it and has never known anything else.

    I'm quite mystified actually that you perceived Obama as less radical than Hillary, but in any event, I've never liked (especially recently during the Christine O'Nutjob rigamarole) the "I'm more Conservative than you" or I'm a Truer Republican than you game.

    So your donation can be forgiven. ;)

  3. Hi Chris:

    Obama is a fundamentally misguided ideologue, which is a reason his presidency is tanking the way it is. He will likely be swept out the way in-over-his-header Jimmy Carter was.

    By contrast, HRC is a huge negative force in American politics. She is every bit as radical as Obama. She is just more insidious when it comes to hiding it. It's a visceral thing with me.

    Agree that Bill is a pragmatist at heart. But I don't think that automatically makes HRC one.