A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Trying to nail down Obama. . .

. . .on policy is similar to hitting a knuckleball -- which, in turn, is likened to eating Jell-O with chopsticks. And, to be honest, I can't even eat ramen noodles with chopsticks. But, thankfully, the venerable Victor Davis Hanson is here to help. He's the Ted Williams of chopstick Jell-O.

The only reservation I have in hoping to face Obama in the fall, rather than Hillary, is the fact that the mainstream media will simply refuse to try to draw him out on any policy specifics, allowing him to cruise through the late months of the campaign on the same cushion of platitudes and generalities he has ridden so effectively to where he is now. I still think that's a real possibility, but the existence of the New Media makes it a bit more difficult, now that its print and broadcast counterparts have essentially embraced it in an effort to show that it can (ostensibly) keep up with the times.

Hanson hits on another difficulty that Obama faces in this passage:
But his success seems to have been achieved with a slightly different calculus — 80-90 percent of the African-American vote, elite yuppie whites, and students and Moveon.org progressives.

Of course, the 80-90 percent of the black vote is going to be there for Obama, just as it would be for Clinton, or nearly any other Democrat in the general. In fact, if John McCain could keep that figure down to a paltry 80%, he would be seen as some kind of miracle worker. The MoveOn.org crowd is going to be there for him, as well -- though, I think that movement has already passed the point of diminishing returns, and proves more a risk than a benefit in the long run. Playing too heavily to that crowd in the primaries carries the peril of drawing a candidate into promises that simply cannot be kept. Obama already recognizes that fact as he demonstrated recently in reserving the right "as Commander in Chief to assess the situation." Some MoveOn.orgies will stay home in protest as he edges away from their agenda in the fall, but the vast majority will be there in the end, simply because they have nowhere else to go, and they see this election as their last chance to hand out their impassioned rebuke to the Bush Era.

I'm not absolutely convinced that the white yuppie elites will be all that solid a base for him, however. While a majority of them will likely stick with him, I believe John McCain can peel off a significant number of them through his emphasis on duty and honor -- his call to serve a cause greater than oneself. I get the sense that this is the group among whom there is the greatest amount of dissatisfaction with President Bush over his failure to call upon Americans to sacrifice more in the aftermath of 9/11. I think there's a sense of guilt within that demographic that was only heightened when the president told America to go on living life as we had in the past -- to go shopping, as it were.

John McCain is the very embodiment of the sacrifice they were never called upon to make. The progeny of our nation's military elite, who could easily have chosen a safer, less demanding path chose to charge head-on into battle. And, when captured by the enemy and given the opportunity to benefit from his privilege, he declined in the name of honor, sacrificing life and, quite literally, limb in the process. You can quibble over whether or not guilt is a sound reason to cast a vote for one person over another, but the truth of the matter is, no matter who the white yuppie elite vote for in this election, there will be some measure of self-consciousness at play. McCain has the far more compelling story, and is much more emblematic of the sense of sacrifice that so many of that particular group long to feel.

Finally, Obama is making a gargantuan mistake if he is banking on the student vote. Recent history has demonstrated repeatedly that this group, while easily excited, is virtually immune to inspiration. McCain had his flirtation with this elusive group back in the 2000 primaries. They showed up at the rallies, they showed up at the victory parties, and they showed up at the airports. They just didn't show up at the polls. Al Gore had the same experience, as did Howard Dean. Michael Moore was the emissary to the youth vote on behalf of John Kerry in 2004. While he was virtually ubiquitous on college campuses, and exhorting audiences into the kind of fervor one would expect to see at an Appalachian chapel full of snake-bite survivors, he couldn't quite rouse them from their dorms on Election Day.

In all, there is very good reason for conservatives to be optimistic about Republican chances in 2008, if they will only chose to do so. While McCain may not be the favorite of some, he is obviously the better choice for all. And, given the fact that a mere month ago, no Republican could look ahead to November without a grimace, it's time for conservatives of every stripe to count their blessings. Even though they may not be giddy at the prospect of McCain as their nominee, they will eventually come to recognize that there is less gloom on the horizon now. And, when McCain's coattails begin to boost the prospects of down-ticket conservative candidates, the current grousing will give way to a more cheerful, optimistic conservative party -- just the way Reagan would have it.

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