Pushing Away

It’s somewhat remarkable to me that today features two stories of conservatives and Republicans backing away from John McCain and his presidential campaign.  In one is a touching and eloquent endorsement of Obama, the son of famed conservative figurehead William Buckley, and in the other we see a trickle of moderate Republicans including one former governor who had actually endorsed McCain during his primary bid.

After reading both of them I was struck with a curious thought; not one that was explicitly stated in either (well, perhaps Lincoln Chafee’s statements were close), but one that I couldn’t help thinking anyway.  Republicans deserve to lose.

I’m not saying this in a partisan way, believe it or not.  This isn’t me speaking as a liberal, or a Democrat, but as someone watching more and more Republicans pushing away from their party’s new leader.  Repulicans deserve to lose this election, and the responsible ones understand that.

We can get into heated arguments over whether this economic crisis was the Democrats’ fault or the Republicans’ fault, and we can get into heated arguments over the virtue or lack thereof of our invasion of Iraq.  We can and often do get into heated arguments over everything under the sun from gay marriage to taxes to whether or not the government has the right to listen in on our phone conversations.

This is, believe it or not, the healthy aspect of partisan politics.  We let our ideas and opinions clash with each other, and in most cases one wins out over the other, and sometimes new and better ideas are forged from the mixing of ideologies.

But we can’t also ignore the fact that for six of the past eight years, one party and more importantly one ideology has been in charge, and the American people are deeply dissatisfied with the performance of the government.  By right it is their prerogative to exact their dissatisfaction with the party that’s been in charge.

This is not to say that Democrats aren’t at least partially to blame for what’s going on, nor that Republicans are solely responsible.  This is just how things work, how this government works, and had the parties been reversed, I would say the same thing about my own party; we were bad stewards, and if we lose this election the first ones we would have to blame would be ourselves.

This is also not to say that the culpable party should just lay down their arms and quit, far from it.  Just as it’s the right of the American people to exact electoral justice, it is just as much their right to absolve.  But there is a difference between trying your best to win, and stopping at nothing to win, and in the thin margin between the two is where honor can be found, or in John McCain’s case, where honor is lost.

When you try your best even though you know your party deserves to lose, that entails making a case for your record and your philosophy of governance.  It means making the case that the woes we feel now are temporary, but your philosophy is still fundamentally correct, it just needs time to right itself.

When you stop at nothing, you literally stop at nothing.  There is no low to which you are not willing to stoop, no lie you won’t peddle, no attack you’ll pull back from.

You see, for McCain, and for the most rabid of his supporters, there’s not even the slightest pause to ponder if they even deserve to win.  If there was, they would have enough self awareness to believe that they could do that solely on the basis of their ideas and not on smears and increasingly dangerous and divisive attacks.  Political culture today has been driven to a point where loss has become unacceptable even if it’s possibly deserved.

And the end result, realized in throngs of raving mobs, is a nation that will come out of this election even more divided, more wounded along caste and culture fault lines, and all of this because a candidate doesn’t realize that his ascension to the White House is not his by divine right.  This is not putting country first, and I think the saner members of the party are quickly coming to this realization.

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