Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Admiring McCain of Old

WaPo: The larger point, though, is that if I'm not voting for McCain -- and, after a long struggle, I've realized that I can't -- maybe it's worth explaining why, for I suspect there are other independent voters who feel the same. Particularly because it's not his campaign, disjointed though that has been, that finally repulses me: It's his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party. His problems are not technical; they do not have to do with ads, fundraising or tactics, as some have suggested. They are institutional; they have to do with his colleagues, advisers and supporters.
Another thing I liked about McCain was the deliberate distance he always kept from the nuttier wing of his party and, simultaneously, the loyalty he's shown to a recognizably conservative budgetary philosophy. Fiscal conservatism, balanced budgets, sober spending -- all of these principles have been brushed away as so much nonsense for the past eight years by Republicans more interested in grandstanding about how much they hate Washington. McCain was one of the few who kept talking about them. He was also one of a shockingly few to understand that there is nothing American, let alone conservative, about torture, and that a battle for civilized values could not be won by uncivilized means.
Finally, I admired McCain's willingness to tackle politically risky issues such as immigration, the debate about which has long been drenched in hypocrisy. Those who want to ban it are illogically denying both the role that immigrants, especially the millions of illegal immigrants, already play in the U.S. economy as well as the improbability of forced deportations; those who want to allow it without restriction don't acknowledge the security risks. McCain tried to put together a bipartisan coalition in an effort to find a rational solution. He failed -- blocked by the ideologues in his party.

If these traits appealed to me, they probably would have appealed to other independents, too. Why, then, has McCain spent the past four months running away from them?