Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is McCain playing the base?

One of the objections I’ve run across to the McCain candidacy is that McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin is a cynical ploy to dupe the religious right.

Now, I’m using the McCain candidacy as the immediate point of reference, but I’m using that to illustrate a larger issue.

This objection tends to take several forms. One version goes something like this:

“I used to vote Republican, but I’ve been very disappointed by 8 years of George Bush. I was also let down by Congressional Republicans when they were in power.”

Another variant takes it back a step:

“I used to support Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, but I became disillusioned with the Reagan Revolution. Reagan failed to deliver on the Reagan Revolution.”

Here’s a different version:

“The religious right is so gullible! How many times do they have to be fooled before they wise up? Politicians are just using them!”

Now, I don’t deny that candidates make political calculations. The problem I have with this objection is the tacit assumption that making political calculations is a one-way street.

But voters can make political calculations too. Is McCain using us? No doubt. Can we use him in return? That’s the question.

I don’t vote for a candidate in the expectation that he could never betray the voter. I’m always aware of that possibility. That figures into my own calculations.

I don’t have to trust a candidate, in some unqualified sense, to vote for him. I don’t become disillusioned with the political process if a candidate breaks a campaign promise since I never labored under the illusion that candidates are always sincere. It’s a strawman argument to assume that credulous idealism is a presupposition for choosing one candidate over another.

Politicians can be cynical, but voters can be cynical, too. And there are different kinds of cynicism. There’s the cynicism of a politician who has no core values. Who will say and do anything to get elected.

And there’s the cynicism of a “values voter” who makes his best guess about the best candidate to vote for. A vote based on probabilities. A game of poker. You calculate the odds, and you try to read your opponent. A psychological game.

Voting involves the same process. It’s far from infallible, but it was never predicated on the assumption that your chosen candidate is a sure thing. A safe bet.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a social conservative who's secondarily a fiscal conservative and a secondary conservative. I do rank fiscal conservativism and national security as being very, very important despite it ranking lower in priority than social conservative issues (abortion and historic family values).

    However, during the GOP primaries I did read on some of the rightwing blogosphere a great disdain for evangelical Christians. What I recall is disdain from fiscal conservatives, neocons, and, of course, from Mormons who slobbered over Mitt Romney.

    So I won't disagree too much with anyone cynically saying that McCain is politically playing and manipulating the GOP Christian base.

    I understand that. But here's the thing, RINO McCain's still far better than Obama.