An Ugly Game of Chicken

Filed under:Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on February 10, 2008 @ 8:37 am

SeeDub has laid out the best possible case for McCain to “come to Jesus” (not in the Huckabee sense) on amesty, McCain-Feingold, and all the other anathema positions he’s taken. Read it all because it’s a model of clarity, but summarized, it’s like this: 1) McCain will do what he must to win the war. Hillary or Obama will do what they must to end our involvement in the war, however ignominiously. 2) McCain needs the conservative base in order to get elected. 3) Therefore McCain should recant a few of his nastier positions and jettison a few of his rabid amesty supporters in order to get our support, win the election, and win the war.

As I said in SeeDub’s comments, McCain should read the post, but there are a couple things wrong with it. 1) It assumes McCain doesn’t need only partial support of the conservative base to win. Out of three Democrats I know personally, one says he will still vote for Hillary if it’s Clinton v. McCain; the second says “probably Hillary” but it’s a harder call and she’s somewhat on the fence (interestingly, she cited McCain’s intention to make permanent the Bush tax cuts and Hillary’s Bill-shaped baggage, both as disincentives for each, but never mentioned the war at all). The third said he would vote for McCain. That’s 1.5 out of three Democrats, an unrepresentative sample to be sure, but the best I can do out of my limited Democrat acquaintance. How much conservative support does McCain actually need? Coulter says that given a choice between the Democrat and a Democrat, Democrats will always vote for the Democrat, and in the main I agree with her (a fourth Democrat of my acquaintance, not asked about the 2008 scenario, has said that he would have considered voting McCain in an earlier election had the choice been available. Considered being the most viable word, I think, and I do suspect that my friend #2 will vote Hillary when push comes to shove), but a significant number will most likely break the other way. How many? is the question.

2) SeeDub is saying that to continue to be an honorable war hero, McCain must consider that winning the election by meeting conservatives partway is just as much his duty as winning the war after election. But if we count on McCain to see it that way, then we ourselves are saying we’d rather lose the war than vote McCain. Not honorable in the least. I know that it’s not time to have to make such a declaration yet, that it won’t be time until November, that SeeDub advocates not saying which way we’ll break until McCain makes a few moves himself–which is still very good advice. But I’m a basically transparent girl, sometimes too honest for my own good, I’ve been told, so I can’t help pointing out, even at risk (if too many people write and speak as I am now) of making McCain think himself secure without cutting right on at least a few issues, that this scenario makes an issue of only McCain’s honor, not ours. Think about your own while you’re counting on McCain to save his, is all I’m saying.

It’s unfortunate that this election looks likely to come down to a very ugly game of chicken. McCain can stop it with a few steps towards the blank space between his positions (and his insults, which he can stuff in his and his staff’s ears, frankly) and those of many conservatives. I hope we can count on him to start walkin’.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace