What Conservatives Seek in a Candidate

Mitt Romney carried Utah with about 90% of the Republican primary vote. But since Romney dropped out of the race, lots of Mittlers have expressed their dislike of the obvious GOP nominee, John McCain. I have tried to ask why, but the answer is usually too emotionally-centered to be understandable to someone not in the same boat. However, I finally figured it out: In the eyes of Conservatives, McCain is too willing to (cover the children’s ears) compromise.

Henry Clay was known as The Great Compromiser, but it wasn’t an insult or even a backhanded compliment. He lived during a time when people realized that compromise was a fundamental and integral part of democracy.

But today, the political discourse is less about democracy and more about getting my way. I think that more people would opt for a two-term dictator whom they agreed with than for a slow-moving democracy that often requires compromise.

What has driven us to this point? Because most of what we want in life (materially speaking, and for most isn’t that about as far as it goes?) is so easily obtained, we have lost the arts of sacrifice, prioritization, negotiation, and persuasion. We don’t have to do any of those things any more to be happy. And so we expect the same rules to apply in governing; we want to be able to eat our cake and have it too.

We want security AND freedom, wealth AND equality, lower taxes AND a provident government, privacy AND information, influence AND independence. We don’t want to have to “choose the better part”; we want this, that, AND the other, but everything in full measure, uncompromisingly.

The partisanship of politics, especially born of parties, drives us away from compromise. It makes us believe that the other side is so wrong that compromise is idiotic and immoral. Compromise is “the foot in the door,” “the slippery slope.” Conservative thought and rhetoric has driven its adherents to want an ideologue, an unflinching standard-bearer who will stick to his guns, even if it means the nation deteriorates and political discourse is ruined.

Compromise is the reason my #1 and #2 are Obama and McCain. Because of Obama’s newness, he isn’t beholden to anyone (as evidenced by the superdelegate count). He acknowledges in The Audacity of Hope that compromise is difficult but essential and that crossing party lines is vital to effective governing. McCain has teamed up with Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform, Ted Kennedy on a sensible immigration policy, and others hated by the Conservative wing of the GOP. Why did he do it? He thought it was the right thing to do, despite the foreseeable backlash he would suffer from his party and some of his supporters.

Now, I don’t want to convince anyone to vote for McCain over Obama. But if you’re not going to vote for Obama, vote for another man who understands the difference between governing and politicking.


Reluctant says:

Fully agreed! This is my biggest pet peeve with politics today. The chasm between the parties has become more and more of a problem. Winning is more important than the result of the law/policy.

I love Obama’s push for compromise. I think McCain has tried to distance himself from his compromising past to try to appease the far right (which I don’t really agree with). I think McCain will starts trumpeting his compromising past once he has the nomination all wrapped up.

Mike W. says:

I think what you are saying, Dave, is that conservativism is an end in itself and anything that disagrees with it is thrown out as WRONG by conservatives. Conservatives care about what is right (according to their world view), not about people. Hard-core liberal idealogues are the same, it’s just that there are fewer of them AND part of their ideology is “caring” about people.

The Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world are so devoted to an (self-interpreted) ideology that they don’t understand that many of their positions are in direct contradiction to their stated fundamental ideology. For example: neo-conservativism is not conservative; it is aggressive and imperialistic and exploitative, none of which are true conservative principles (if one hearkens back to Edmund Burke, considered to be the founder of the conservative ideology). It is an ideology whose name has been hijacked by Reagan and others in an attempt to pull people who believe in “rightness” into their world of power and exploitative politics.

And I agree that McCain is, for me (an independent), much more palatable than Huckabee or even Romney (in the tone that he was running).

Obama has a definite moderate tone. His ideology is definitely liberal, however, which has it’s own baggage.

Centrist says:

Reluctant, don’t worry. McCain will move more toward the center after the convention and start touting his skills in compromise. That’s how it always works.

This is part of the reason the Democratic establishment is so unsettled by Obama. His popularity among John Q. Public has taken the power away from the left-wing ideologues. Clinton is running the traditional campaign of pandering to the extreme in the primary season and planning to move to the center for the general election. Hopefully she won’t have the chance.

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