Barack Obama is a bright and intelligent man. His leadership style appears to be thoughtful, and I hope that his desire to bring together an administration with diverse beliefs is a sincere one. He will likely be our next president and I certainly wish him all the best, just as I did with Bush and Clinton and so on. It does us no good as a nation to hope for a president's failure.
And with that said, I will not be voting for Barack Obama. I believe he lacks the experience and the record of bipartisan work ethic and accomplishment that I would hope to see in a nominee.
Which brings us to John McCain.
I can sit here all day and find fault with the McCain campaign and how they've elected to run this race. They've lacked focus, shifting from one target to the next. They've never pushed a comprehensive plan for helping to improve the economy. McCain's plan to shift away from employer-based health care (a good idea) was never well explained.
And then there was Sarah Palin. What looked good on paper has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster in practice. Her superficial appeal was quickly worn away, and what was left for the world to see was an inarticulate woman with seemingly little knowledge of foreign policy. Her daughter is knocked up, she's "borrowing" a $150K wardrobe, her husband races "snow machines." Sarah Palin has become the Elly May Clampett of presidential politics, a woman who seems completely out of her element unless she's reading from her notes.
While Sarah Palin may have some credentials as a reformer, she sadly has chosen to become just another messenger of empty-minded populism that targets its appeal to blue collar, rural voters with high school diplomas. Her audience is the same audience that Mike Huckabee targeted, the same audience John Edwards targeted. Neither was successful precisely because targeting this audience drives away middle-income suburban voters (who are increasingly college educated) in droves.
It is fine for the Republican party to be a party of socially conservative values. The problem the party has faced has been a Pyrrhic one. The GOP has consistently gone for short-term wins in voter turnout by pushing divisive issues like gay marriage, stem cell research, and abortion. While these issues enthuse a small portion of their base, they are a huge turnoff to the moderate and independent voters who usually decide elections. To those voters, these issues are simply not a priority, and are a distraction from what politicians should really be focusing on - health care, the economy, the war in Iraq, gas prices - really, anything but those social issues.
Sarah Palin is everything that is wrong with the Republican Party and Republican politics. She says she's a reformer but supported the Bridge to Nowhere. She professes to believe in clean government but packed her own cabinet and state government with friends and cronies who had no experience relative to the jobs they were given. She's against higher taxes except when she can sock it to oil companies in Alaska. She can't bring herself to fully repudiate Ted Stevens even after the old crook has been convicted.
The choice of Palin was a transparent and desperate attempt to lure this highly vocal minority back into the fold. That didn't come without a downside. When all is said and done in this election, you will see that not only lawyers, but doctors, bankers, and small business owners will have given more money to Obama than to McCain. The target audience for Sarah Palin is the very crowd that is driving working professionals out of the Republican Party, the very professionals that used to be the base of the party. The very professionals who used to be our training ground for future politicians.
Sadly, the party of William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich is dead. And what is left in its wake are a bunch of anti-intellectual populists who will pander to downtrodden voters by attempting to exploit their worst fears (Obama "pals around" with terrorists... one party rule will be disastrous...). There is no positive message. There is no Contract with America. There are no ideas. Just fear.
And American voters aren't buying it anymore.
My vote on Tuesday is for John McCain - the John McCain of eight years ago, the one that, in the rare chance he's elected, I hope he can find once again. I will be writing him in so that I can choose my own vice presidential nominee. I will likely lose again, just as I've been on the losing side of every presidential ballot I've ever cast, all the way back to sixth grade when I cast my ballot for Michael Dukakis. Perhaps I could cast my spell on Obama, but I would prefer to bury one of my own.
The Republican Party needs another huge defeat and a lot of time for soul searching. They need it in order to figure out that it's not Iraq. It's not Wall Street. The problem is the Republican Party and its complete lack of constructive ideas for governance - ideas that don't involve fetuses, the Bible, or who your neighbor is sleeping with. Here's hoping that turnaround starts on Wednesday.