Monday, May 04, 2009

Reflection on the Election: GOP Primaries.

I’m in the middle of rethinking my political philosophy. No, not my conservatism – I’m referring to my voting policy. During the Republican primaries, I wasn’t very happy – my top two choices were Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee (Fred Thompson had withdrawn). I didn’t really like either of them that much.

I didn’t trust Mitt Romney. And I struggled with the fact that he was a Mormon. Would it be right to support his bid for the Whitehouse? I read an editorial in World Magazine, where the journalist pointed out how truth is just a commodity in Mormonism, and perhaps a Mormon president would also treat truth like a commodity. Perhaps. A man from church expressed discomfort at the idea in a conversation we had – he felt that having a Mormon president would be a significant departure from our Christian heritage, as all our presidents so far had been at least nominally Christian. (My thought was, in the case of Bill Clinton, how much was “nominally Christian” worth, in terms of our nation’s heritage?) On the flip side, though, I remembered congressman Jeff Flake, an unapologetic Mormon, who consistently stands up in the House of Representatives for what’s right (i.e. Conservative Principles). He seemed to be convincing proof to me that a Mormon can still be a wonderful statesman. (Look him up on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.) In fact, I would personally love to see him be the next Speaker of the House (though it’s unlikely even with a GOP majority).

My biggest problem with Mitt Romney was that he had not always been pro-life, and in the past had tried to distance himself from Ronald Reagan. He was now talking like a proud conservative, and his record as Governor of Massachusetts was decent. But it seemed like his conversion was too recent and convenient for getting the GOP nomination. Was he being genuine? I was not sure I could trust him (in the sense that you can trust any politician).

When Mike Huckabee came on the scene, I started to get excited. Finally, here was a leader who held my convictions. But as the campaign went underway, it turned out he was not being honest about his tax record as governor of Arkansas. I found myself grudgingly applauding Mitt Romney in a debate when he cornered Huckabee and forced him to tell the truth, namely, that he raised more taxes than he cut. If Huckabee had just been honest about his tax record from the beginning, I would have been more inclined to support him; his fundamentally dishonest presentation of himself on the fiscal front worried me. On top of that, some of the things he said during the campaign started to sound like the class-warfare propaganda that comes out of the Left. When he said thinks like “Main Street vs. Wall Street,” and “Trickle-Up,” I had to shake my head.

Someone once compared conservatism to a three-legged stool: moral values (i.e. life and marriage), fiscal conservatism, and a strong national defense. All three legs are needed, or the stool is dysfunctional. Well, the fiscal leg seemed inadequate with Huckabee.

By the time it came down to the final three (McCain, Huckabee, and Romney), I had decided that Romney was genuine, at least when it came to being pro-life. He had all three legs of the stool; Huckabee’s moral-values-leg was the strongest, but Romney’s was good enough too. Huckabee had a strong shard of the fiscal leg – namely, his support for the fair-tax and abolition of the IRS (which in my opinion is institutionalized tyranny). But that shard wasn’t convincing enough. His class-warfare rhetoric disappointed me. I feared that if he carried the Republican banner, he would reinforce George W. Bush’s big-government “conservatism,” and carry us into economic ruin, which would result in a socialist back-lash in 2012. Not only that, if he put such a political spin on his tax record, what other things would he be dishonest about? How would he portray Evangelicals to the country, and to the world?

As for John McCain, he was my last choice. I consider him to be a political adversary, and a “moderate” sell-out. He seemed to cause trouble for conservativism in congress during the entire Bush administration. He even seriously considered switching parties before Senator Jim Jeffords from Vermont beat him to the punch. I didn’t trust him one bit. And when he started dominating the primaries, I was distressed. If he got the nomination, then there would be no possibility of a decent president for the next four years.

Well, if it wasn’t McCain, it would either be Romney or Huckabee. And the two of them were dividing up the conservative base. One of them had to drop out immediately, or McCain would seal the nomination. Since Romney had (in my opinion) a better handle of all three legs of the Republican Stool, and a better chance of winning (by that I mean winning the nomination; Huckabee may have done better in the general), I decided Romney would be my candidate. On “Supper-Tuesday,” I urged my friends in California to vote for him instead of Huckabee. They disagreed with me (and perhaps they were right), and they voted for Huckabee.

McCain practically sowed up the nomination that night. When Oregon finally got to vote, it was down to McCain and Ron Paul. There was no good choice, and McCain had already won anyway, so I wrote in Alan Keys.

I do not regret writing in Alan Keys; I’d do it again. But I wonder if my desire for evangelicals to abandon Mike Huckabee and support Mitt Romney was right. I was torn over it, and I still am. Was I right? Or have I been approaching the issue of voting the wrong way?

(It gets worse. In my next post, I’ll have to make confessions on how I voted in the general election.)


Anonymous said...

Hey, this is Mary from apricotpie. Just wanted to let you know that this was a very well-written piece, and that you're not the only one who has had second thoughts about the way they voted. Personally, I voted for McCain, not because I liked him, but because I knew Huckabee had no chance of winning (Fred Thomson was my first choice too).
Anyway, great piece.

James Dunn said...

I'm a bit confused as to what you meant by Huckabee having no chance of winning. Did you mean in the primary, or the general election?

Anonymous said...

We voted for Huckabee in the primaries.
It becomes difficult - do you vote for someone who you know is closer to being theologically sound and has basically the same morals? Or do you throw most of that aside and think about who would be best for the country at the moment?
Admittedly, I'm glad I can't vote yet - unlike most people my age I view it as a great responsibility... and know that even if my vote doesn't make a difference, it's still a statement of what I believe.

Anonymous said...

I meant that Huckabee had no chance of winning in the general election - I was hoping he would in the primaries.

James Dunn said...

I see. Here's my political analyses: I would disagree with you about Huckabee's chances in the general election. I believed he had no chance in the primaries, because Romney consistently got more of the conservative vote, and that as long as that vote was split McCain would win. Therefore, I wanted Huckabee to drop out so Romney could defeat McCain. When Romney dropped out instead, I hoped Huckabee would win, but by then it was too late.
But as to the general election -- I think Huckabee could have won. In fact, I think in retrospect he probably would have. McCain would have, too, if he hadn't sold his soul to Karl Marx (along with the rest of Washington D.C.) when the economy tanked and everyone pushed for a "bail-out." Huckabee wouldn't have stood for the bail-out nonsense (Obama would have because he did), and that would have resonated with the American People (who overwhelmingly disaproved of it). Huckabee would have entered the debates ahead in the polls, and would have run circles around an increasinly iritated and panicking Obama -- I think Huckabee would have squashed him, and called out every single one of his falacies. (Most of them, anyway.) Out of the final six Republican candidates, I think the only one who would have lost bigger than McCain was Ron Paul.
I don't want you to feel bad or anything, Mary, but I think that the idea that Huckabee had no chance in the general election is exactly what the opposition wanted us to think. The mainstream media was pushing for McCain to be nominated, acting like the GOP would sink into irrelevancy if we didn't nominate a "centrist" like him. Instead, the GOP lost because we did in fact nominate a "centrist": a candidate who was not conservative. I think that's exactly what the liberals wanted to happen -- if they had really thought that McCain stood a better chance than Huckabee, they would have tried to convince us that Huckabee stood a better chance.
What finally ended up happening was that much of the conservative "base" refused to vote for McCain, perfering instead that the GOP would learn a lesson and nominate a true Reaganite in 2012. In my opinion, if the entire conservative base had voted for McCain (and I'm not necessarily wishing that), he would have won.
But, as I said, that's one man's political analyses. I should publish a post where I flesh it out more.