It’s the very beginning of February, it’s cold, it’s dreary, people are at their most miserable. What better time to examine the candidates running on the Republican ticket for the United States presidency? Now, for the thrilling conclusion of our two-part saga “Do Not Vote for These People”.
Last week I offered a little background on three of the candidates: Ruldolph Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson. By that time Thompson was out of the running, and now, a mere week later, we see another giant fall.
This one was more surprising, however. Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani was, for some time, the Republican front runner. Due to ideological and personal differences with the Republican’s traditional religious base (as discussed last week), along with a flawed “all-eggs-in-the-Florida-basket” approach, he is throwing in the towel after coming in third in the aforementioned state. His endorsement is meant for John McCain.
Back in 2000, when this whole ugly mess we call “the current situation” could have been avoided, McCain was a serious contender for the Republican nomination against then Texas Governor George W. Bush. Several months ago it appeared that history would repeat itself as the McCain campaign appeared to unravel before the primaries had even begun. Now, after some severe reorganization and months of hard campaigning, his chances of winning his party’s nomination are looking remarkably bright.
I’ve gathered that he is something of an enigmatic figure on this side of the Atlantic; that Europeans aren’t quite sure what to make of him. Several Italians I know had the impression that his conservativism was of a war-mongering sort that would shame Bush. A co-worker of mine remarked today “I knew he fought in Vietnam, but I didn’t know he was captured and tortured”.
Allow me to do what I can to give a little background on this man. No, he is not a conservative to the extent that Bush is. Yes, he was captured and tortured in Vietnam. And how. In total, McCain spent five and a half years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war, two years of which were spent in solitary confinement. To read the torture he endured is to become squeamish. Yet when McCain’s father was named commander of all US forces in the Vietnam in July 1968, and with aims of securing a little good PR, his captives immediately offered him a chance to be released. McCain refused, saying he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well.
As a result of his torture his hair turned stark white by 31, and to this day he is unable to raise his arms above his head. Say what you will about the United States’ asinine involvement in Vietnam, whatever we might say about Senator McCain’s policies or his ideology, the fact remains that he has a concept of honour that I or anyone that I have ever known do not or will not possess. I for one commend him for this.
As Republicans go, McCain is “one of the good ones”, known as a maverick among his party. He spoke out unequivocally against uses of torture such as the infamous “waterboarding” by US forces in Guantamo and elsewhere. He has also long argued for campaign finance reform and the reformation of US – Mexican immigration policy. All of these positions have put him at odds with president Bush and his lapdogs but gained him great respect among conservative-leaning independents.
However, let us not be lulled into submission by a fox among wolves: McCain is running on the Republican ticket, and, at least to a degree, the label applies. Throughout the “Mess O’Potamia” (thanks Daily Show) he has refused to be anything but supportive of our involvement in Iraq, even while other, more “hard-line” Republicans jump from the sinking USS Bush like so many rats in designer suits.
It has always amazed me that someone who knows the horrors of war could later in life wish the same vile fate upon younger generations. What was Richard Nixon thinking when he met the recently released John McCain in the photo presented above? At the start of the Iraq War McCain commented “War is a miserable business – let’s get on with it”, and his stance hasn’t wavered since. He supports continued involvement and the deployment of more personnel (the so-called “troop surge”) as a means to securing a less-than-disastrous end.
Like the now-fallen Giuliani, McCain is largely running on a “security platform”, that is, that he is the man to lead us in a time of war, not a time of peace. While I have no reason to believe that John McCain is anything but an honest man, voters should be wary of a president with such an approach – these self-styled “war time presidents”- if they at any time wish to avoid war. He also remains a conservative on social issues, including taxes, gay marriage, and social welfare.
Despite these aspects McCain remains moderate compared to many of his colleagues. The most notable of these at this point in the game if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romeny. Without the experiences of either Giuliani or McCain to claim any sort of legitimacy on international security issues, Romney has styled himself, from the very beginning, as an “old-guard Republican” in the vain of Ronald Regan. While he does of course favour strong military action, he is more overtly conservative on social issues, such as abortion, religion, and the prospect of gay marriage. He presents himself as the fiscal conservative who will lower taxes (at least among the rich), lower social welfare, and publicly burn every copy of the Michael Moore film Sicko in existence. He is the candidate of the establishment; that has been the strategy since Day One.
Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, that “establishment” no longer seems to be the driving force in the Republican Party. What’s worse, much of that base he was courting -those concerned with national security and those who vote on “moral issues” find better candidates in McCain (security) and Mike Huckabee (“moral issues”).
The reason for the latter is religion. While Romney is by all accounts a very religions man (in US politics this is a good thing) he is simply of the wrong religions persuasion, named Latter-Day Saint, better known as Mormon. While it would be grossly taboo to say that you will not vote for a candidate because of their race or their gender, many Americans find it perfectly acceptable to not vote for a candidate based upon their religious belief.
The Evangelical Christian population of the United States (discussed last week in Part I) tend to be openly hostile to the Mormon religion, often not considering it a true “Christian” religion. This matter isn’t helped by the fact that Mormonism is significantly less common -and therefore found yet more bizarre- on the East Coast and in the South-East (the population centers of the US and the “Bible Belt”, respectively) where Romney hopes to earn many of his supporters.
While there are plenty of examples of candidates being unable to keep their religion to themselves (Bush, Huckabee, etc.), the secularism of Romney -which has not proved a problem thus far in his political life- ought not be under scrutiny. So the man believes Native Americans are decedents of the Lost Tribes of Israel. So what? If he’s not going to alter the history textbooks with such insanity, what business is it of the public’s? If anything it shows real conviction not to convert to a more mainstream religion to further ones political career, despite overwhelming public condemnation (outside the state of Utah).
With Giuliani endorsing McCain and California Arnold Schwarzeneggar expected to do the same, McCain has built a momentum that Romney will have a difficult time stopping. His Reagan-esque conservative rhetoric seems outdated for a Republican party that is generally more open to economic populism (Huckabee) and more open to slight deviations from the straight-and-narrow Republican mantra (McCain) – if not from a more mainstream Christian church.
There is one more candidate I wanted to touch on. The more Libertarian strain of the Republican party is being siphoned off, gradually but noticeably, by the candidate Ron Paul. A favorite of the internet nerd bloc, he has become a household name largely on word-of-mouth publicity. His candidacy, or that of someone like him, was a historical inevitably. Libertarian politics (wishing for the smallest government possible in both fiscal and social matters) has been on the rise especially among the youth, and the advent of viral media (Youtube, Facebook, etc.) has paved the way for a candidate to gain recognition through non-traditional means. A Republican without the traditional moral agenda (a stripper friend of mine, for example, is a huge fan), he has no chance of winning the Republican primary this year, but we should look for Ron Paul, or someone like him, to be gaining ever more prowess in coming elections.
Between the last issue and this we’ve looked at six different candidates running for president from the Republican party. There is a steady trend away from (nearly) everything having to do with George W. Bush, and the progressive movement ought to view this as a positive development. It is worth noting the ideological shifts that are taking place on that side of the political spectrum, and learning more about the candidates involved.
And then be sure to vote for someone else.
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This post was written by Richard Maidu