Saturday, October 04, 2008

Will McCain move to the populist right?

It is astonishing what an unsteerable ship a US presidential campaign is, how little impression has been made by a crisis that has been under way for weeks now. This is a sign that the interests involved are well entrenched. It leads to the troubling suspicion that the US might be darn unreformable. Christopher Caldwell - Financial Times
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At this point there are only two ways I can see for the Republicans to win in November. One would be something very big from Al Qaeda to occur or a Republican move to the hard, hard right.

You don't think they are there already?

In fact they, or at least John McCain, have quite a bit of distance yet to travel. Read this from Nixon's former speech writer and arch, paleo-conservative, Pat Buchanan:
Philosophically and culturally, we are a divided people. Across the spectrum there are us-versus-them folks who see politics as a zero-sum game between Middle America and a global elite. Below the upper-income brackets and along the center-right are the folks the late columnist Sam Francis, citing sociologist Donald Warren's 1976 study, called Middle American Radicals.(...) In recent years, we have seen the MARs rise again and again in roaring rebellion. But, invariably, when these rebellions occur, John McCain may be found inside the castle walls. In 2007, McCain rushed to Washington to support George Bush, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post in the drive to grant amnesty to 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens. A national firestorm killed the bill and almost killed McCain's campaign. A year earlier, a MARs uprising killed the Dubai ports deal. The power elite was stunned by the explosion of outrage over the leasing of six U.S. ports to Arab sheiks. Nationalism remains a more potent force than globalism, and not only in America.(...) These Democrats can still win this race for John McCain. Many admire his war record. But not only is he not one of them, he has taken pride and pleasure in having been their great antagonist. Could McCain win them back in five weeks? Perhaps. Is he willing to do what is necessary to win them back? Probably not. It would go against his instincts and his image of himself. The issues that move these folks are not just the $700 billion bailout of Gordon Gekko's comrades, but the invasion of America from Mexico, the export of their jobs, factories and future to Asia, and the gnawing fear that the country they grew up in is being sacrificed for the benefit of an internationalist elite. In Clinton's first term, McCain stood with the establishment for NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and the Mexican bailout. Middle America opposed them all. In the past decade, the MARs have opposed free-trade deals, and lost, but won virtually every referendum on gay marriage, affirmative action or welfare for illegal aliens. Invariably, the MARs are portrayed as bigots, nativists, xenophobes, protectionists and isolationists, and their leaders as demagogues. In McCain's words from 2000, they are "agents of intolerance." This is fine if you wish to be beloved in this city, but it may be a fatal impediment if you want to be president.
Buchanan's text, with a few names changed, would read exactly like a text by any European neo-fascist like Jean Marie Le Pen, Gianfranco Fini or Jörg Haider. It is the same toxic cocktail.

This is the path that much of the European right has been taking in the last few years in France, Italy, Austria and Belgium... even in Germany and it has been paying them huge dividends.

I think a clearer and more tempting recipe for turning McCain's campaign around would be hard to find. Certainly Sarah Palin would be no impediment. Buchanan's former boss, Richard Nixon, would have done it without even blinking, but will John McCain?

All the elements of nationalist humiliation: fear of immigration, subliminal or not so subliminal racism, religious/ethnic fanaticism and you name it are there. If you add that right now, just before the election, the economy appears to be melting down... This is dry straw soaked in gasoline. If McCain doesn't strike the match and light this mess and just meekly goes down to defeat rather than call up America's evil spirits, I would have to take off my hat to him... he would be a true patriot. DS


RC said...

I think he is going to be lighting that match any moment now. But I still think it is too late for him with only 30 days left. And even if he lit the match, won and got his mojo working on January 20, I doubt he would go all xenophobic then. Whatever his other faults, by that point he would be president and other than the slight possibility of re-election, he would have no reason to keep any promises and I would very much expect his Rockefeller Republican tendencies emerge fully.
He does not care one iota about "the base" except as to how they might vote for him right now, and beyond that he will forget they ever existed. Furthermore, they know that.

Anonymous said...

He already has with the cavewoman!

Stephanie said...

Even if he wanted to, he couldn't, not after the bailout bill.

I don't see how McCain can be described as a Rockefeller Republican by any stretch of the imagination. By today's standards, perhaps -but he's a genuine conservative.

If by some chance McCain wins he will not forget the base. He'll do as Bush I did - keep them happy with judicial nominees far to the right. It may not work - they'll never trust him, just as they never trusted Bush - but he'll do what he can.