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McCain: a Great Man

September 5, 2008

I used to label myself a libertarian, but now I think that this label hides some of subtleties of my views in a chorus of “I like my roads and fire departments, thank you very much!” from any who might be listening.  I now describe myself as an economic pragmatist or someone who leans libertarian—by which I mean that I take the libertarian view by default and need convincing to change it.  I suspect that the McCain campaign thinks they have votes like mine in the bag.  After all, he’s a “rugged individualist”, a famous opponent of pork-barrel spending, and an opponent of tax increases.  Why, I am also against pork and don’t like tax increases!  We’re a match made in heaven.

However, I see a number of problems with McCain:

  1. Campaign finance reform.  McCain favored unconstitutional parts of his law, and then essentially said that the first amendment should be altered to fit his worldview:  “I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has become corrupt.”

  2. Nationalism.  McCain seems to favor any policy which makes the US more “great” in his world view.  This includes invading other countries, and advocacy of “national service” (which in the McCain family has always meant military service).  This hasn’t lead to uniformly bad policy—for example McCain’s high environmental standards (for a Republican) are probably rooted in the idea that our country is stronger when it’s not polluted, but it means that he is essentially opposed to individualism.  As long as anyone does something that McCain views as making the country “less great”, then he seems to think they shouldn’t be allowed to do it.  Matt Welch has more here.  His drive towards military intervention also completely outweighs all of his other fiscally conservative virtues to me.  What was the biggest money sink of the last 8 years?  What was McCain’s position on it?  How will we pay for it without breaking his vow to never raise taxes?
  3. His narcissism.  Obviously, only extreme narcissists run for president in the first place.  Who else would think (s)he should be the leader of the free world?  McCain’s strikes me as a step above.  His campaign isn’t just saying “My policies are better than the other guy’s, and I’ll implement them effectively,” he’s made John McCain’s Personal Greatness the central policy pillar of his campaign.  John McCain is a hero, He devoted himself to “a cause greater”, He is strong,  etc.  The key point here is that whatever policies he decides will be the right ones for the nation.  Now Obama says many of the same things about himself, but self-obsession and nationalism are a dangerous combination.  They can get people killed.
  4. His lurch towards socially conservative values.  Being anti-choice by itself is almost enough to make me vote against a candidate.  Being quasi-endorsed by James Dobson et al cements the deal.

One of the key arguments of the McCain campaign is that he will be a great and effective leader, unlike that inexperienced celebrity Obama.  He’ll tell it like it is, and do whatever he wants, no matter what the polls say.  Even if you disagree with him, at least you’ve got experience at the helm.  Let’s assume that McCain is a super-competent genius who implements all of his stated policies, and that Obama is a dullard who is all flash and no substance.  Is it better to have someone competently implementing policies you hate than to have a poor politician poorly implementing policies you love?  There’s a strategic argument to be made against the latter (think about why republicans ruled for 12 years after Jimmy Carter), but I don’t think that the argument points in McCain’s favor, especially for former Clinton supporters.

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  1. September 5, 2008 at 18:42 | #1

    A very good analysis on McCain. I have other reasons for not voting for him, and had not looked at things from this perspective. More or less I have little reason to vote for someone els other than Obama. My sister helped Obama’s campaign when he was running for Federal Senate Seat in IL and told me to look him up on the tubes. I learned a lot about Obama then and after I saw Obama’s speech at the 04 DNC I said, “I hope this guy runs for pres.” Because of this interest in Obama I had little reason to want to vote for someone else.

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