Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm with Fred

I've never voted in a presidential primary before. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that in 2000, I lived in a state with a May primary. By the time it rolled around, the nominations had already been decided. By 2004 I was living in a state with a February primary, but the Republican primary that year was a mere formality, and it was a foregone conclusion that I wouldn't be voting for the Democratic nominee, whoever it turned out to be.

The other reason is that I've always considered myself a political independent. That stance has grown shaky over time - I haven't voted for a Democrat in several years, and as I have moved farther to the right and they have moved farther to the left, it is unlikely that I will again any time soon. But I still cling to that independence - I can't bring myself to identity with either of the major parties. To do so would run counter to my general suspicion of and cynicism about political parties. It's just not me.

My idea of a political party involves barbecue.

Because of this, I considered that I didn't have the moral right to vote in primary elections. They are designed for members of a political party to choose the candidate who will best represent them in the general elections. If I could not identify with a party, then I could not in good faith vote in one of their primaries. I would choose between the candidates in the fall. (The idea of voting in the non-preferred party's primary in an effort to secure the nomination of a weaker candidate - as is widely suspected to have happened in 2000 - strikes me as particularly unethical.)

I have since changed this position a bit. Regardless of my political affiliation (or lack thereof), I will be voting for the Republican presidential candidate in November 2008 - whoever it turns out to be. That being the case, I think I have the right to vote in the upcoming Republican primary, because this is effectively my presidential vote - I will vote for my preferred candidate now and vote against Hillary later.

Yes - the "anybody but Hillary" sentiment. There's a lot of it already, more than a year before the general election. I am counted among those who think Hillary will win the Democratic nomination; whether or not she does, she is probably the most formidable candidate the Democrats can run, so one of the key questions for those who will vote in the Republican primary must be, "Can this person beat Hillary?" That complicates the choice for a voter in the Republican primary - do you vote for the candidate who best aligns with your politics, or for the one you think has the best chance of beating Hillary?

Fortunately for me, those two conditions are met in one candidate.

There are four main candidates for the Republican nomination - Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson.

Mitt Romney is okay, I guess. That's about as much enthusiasm as I can muster for him. He's a nice enough guy, as Massachusetts Republicans go, but he lacks the national appeal necessary to take on a heavyweight like Hillary. Sort of a Republican Michael Dukakis.

John McCain is a man for whom I have immense respect. His record of service to our country deserves at least that much. But I think he shot his bolt in 2000 - the maverick and underdog image didn't quite work then, and it's not going to work this time around either. Mavericks and underdogs are that way for a reason. If they had the broad support they needed to win, they wouldn't be mavericks and underdogs.

Rudy Giuliani has solid credentials as a leader. He turned New York City around, which was no small feat. (I'm just old enough to remember pre-Rudy NYC, and the difference really is shocking.) And of course there's his performance on 9/11. But I have concerns about his relative lack of conservative credentials and the effect that will have on his national appeal to conservatives. I also remember how close the much-anticipated 2000 Senate race against Hillary was expected to be - and that was in New York. Nationally, I think Rudy is something of a one-trick pony; that and his lack of appeal to the conservative base will doom him against Hillary.

Fred Thompson is, I think, the best the Republicans have to offer. He is a small-government conservative in the Goldwater-Reagan tradition, which is something we need badly after twenty years of indifference or outright hostility to federalism (by presidents of both parties.) He comes across as a straightforward, principled kind of guy. He's got a wide range of experience, he's got national recognition, and he's got presence. And I think he can beat Hillary.

So, yeah: I'm with Fred.


Anonymous Bob "the RhinoKeeper" said...

Welcome to the club Theo. I've been watching him since I first heard rumblings of his exploratory committe back in March. At that time I predicted to those that would listen at work that he would announce in September despite the pundits predicting Memorial Day then Independence Day. He's had some questionable activities in the past but I think he's the strongest of the bunch.

9:43 AM  

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