Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You're a Grand Old Party - or are you?

I've always been a registered Republican, but the 2008 Presidential election is the first time I've truly acted on it. Ironically, it's the candidate being criticized as "not Republican enough" who has gotten me off my couch and involved in local caucuses, conventions, and activities. And yes, I've done my best to stifle my frustration with martyr-voter Republicans whose self-defeating talk and action ignore the actual facts of McCain's record. I participate in my local party, knowing we mutually disagree on occasion, but that matters little compared to the fate of the whole nation.

Meanwhile, in Deep Blue Liberal land, the media and millions of voters are 'mobilized' in support of Obama. Except that two-thirds of Democrats want opponent Hillary to stay in the race, more think Hillary can win than Obama, and nearly a third of registered Democrats say they would vote for McCain over their party's heir apparent. We're already hearing about the protests and counter-protests and counter-counter-protests that will accompany the conventioneers' organic vegan meals. The media celebrate his record-breaking 'achievements' while reluctantly reporting on the nuisance which is their party's other, more qualified, also barrier-shattering candidate.

So, what gives? Americans, to borrow a phrase, are "mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore." From either party. We are fed up with not having schools and roads and hospitals because lobbyist-pocketed Senators are sneaking wasteful spending onto bills. We are sick of sending different people to Washington and getting the same results (none). And we are tired of life and death decisions being made for political reasons.

Both parties, one very publicly, one more subtly, have been forced to recalibrate their priorities. Without the crutch of a clearly-groomed successor, both Democrats and Republicans went back to the drawing board and came up with two very different standard-bearers. Republicans chose a candidate with conservative credentials but without the arrogance and special-interest ties that turned off independent voters in previous elections. They moved a bit toward the middle, deciding it was better to elect "100% of a candidate you agree with 85% of the time." Democrats weighed an experienced alternative against a charismatic newcomer and decided (we assume) to cast their lots with the Rookie of the Year.

Ironically, the "purple people" will decide the payoff of both parties' gambles - the swing voters in swing states whose criteria define definition. These are the people who truly "vote the person and not the party" because they hear less 'background noise' when evaluating the two candidates. So if you're listening non-partisan voters, here's what you need to know.

The key difference between McCain and Obama is that McCain actually has something to offer both sides. McCain successfully maintained a reasonably conservative record without alienating Democrats in Congress, successfully passing key legislation and rallying others to the cause of bipartisanship. Obama has hardly been in Congress long enough to establish an identity, but is already so polarizing a figure that nearly a third of his own party say they won't vote for him in November. Oh, and by the way, McCain has 26 years in Congress, extensive legislation passed, a lifetime of valorous military service. Obama has a lot of internet donors and a Junior Senate seat.

Lest we forget, parties don't run countries, people do. On January 21, 2009, both the RNC and DNC have other fish to fry, and America will be left in the hands of one of two men. A moderate-leaning Republican with experience, or a liberal-leaning Democrat without it. With so many lives, millions of dollars and other important things at stake, I believe most independents , Republicans, AND Democrats will do the right thing and put our nation in John McCain's hands.