Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My Mediocre Candidate Can Whip Your Mediocre Candidate

National Review Online - With the supercharged 24-hour news cycle, the burgeoning blogosphere, and the legions of journalists furiously scribbling as much as they can before kills off their employers, it’s seems like the 2008 presidential contest has already been analyzed from every possible angle, by everyone with an angle. In fact, it feels as though we’ve already had several national elections since last summer. And yet we’ve only just begun the general-election campaign Tuesday night with Barack Obama weakly clinching the Democratic nomination while losing one of the final two primaries and John McCain blandly promising a respectful contest with his fresh-faced Senate colleague.

We’re stuck with these two mediocrities for the rest of the year. What’s more, we’re also going to be subjected to hundreds of mainstream-media mediocrities endlessly recycling the same trite observations, then revising the observations, then rediscovering the original observations, ad nauseatium.

The 2008 primaries offer many interesting twists and turns, but it’s not hard in retrospect to boil the outcome down to several key points:

The candidate field was weak. The Democrats ending up barely picking a freshman senator over a former first lady with just over seven years in elected office. The Republicans picked a longtime politician, yes, but someone with virtually no executive experience and tepid support among key constituencies in his party. John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, and other experienced politicians washed out. They all talked like hotshots, but they couldn’t even defeat a paper-thin Obama and an aged, underfinanced McCain.

Edwards lost because he is a white male. Giuliani lost because he is a social liberal. Romney and Huckabee canceled each other out, paving the way for McCain’s improbable recovery. Thompson left Law & Order at just the right time, before it truly went stale.

Obama clinched the nomination on May 6 in North Carolina and Indiana, not in Montana a month later. That’s when he arrested Clinton’s post-Super Tuesday momentum and demonstrated overwhelming organizational and fundraising prowess. He’s not a particularly impressive thinker or leader, but he is a serviceable vessel.

Gasoline is about to exceed $4 a gallon in most of the country. Anyone who believes that isn’t the single most important number in American politics is fooling himself.

Even as they recognize the continued progress in Iraq and Afghanistan, swing voters will not necessarily reward McCain’s steadfastness or question Obama’s judgment. They are capable of believing that America should win the wars it starts and that Bush started, and McCain supported, the wrong war. I don’t agree with them, but it’s hardly a contradiction.

I fear that the next several months are going to seem interminable, with gaffes and trivialities substituting for real debate about America’s future in a dangerous and turbulent world. The only thing I am reasonably confident of is that Americans are going to elect a transitional figure in November, not a transformational one. That’s good news. Although they each have some virtues, Obama and McCain are far from the best that America can do.