Day By Day

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Deeply Unserious Election

Mark Steyn is in top form today, explaining why the "candidates of change" are actually candidates of stasis, and why John McCain and Huck are bad choices.

[T]he more capitalist your economy, the more dynamic it is. Every great success story is vulnerable to the next great success story — which is why teenagers aren’t picking their CDs from the Sears-Roebuck catalog. There’s a word for this. Now let me see. What was it again?

Oh, yeah: “change.” Innovation drives change, the market drives change. Government “change” just drives things away....

[I]t’s capitalism that’s the real “agent of change.” Politicians, on the whole, prefer stasis, at least on everything for which they already have responsibility. That’s the lesson King Canute was trying to teach his courtiers when he took them down to the beach and let the tide roll in: Government has its limits. In most of the Western world, the tide is rolling in on demographically and economically unsustainable entitlements, but that doesn’t stop politicians getting out their beach chairs and promising to create even more. That’s government “change.”


John McCain demonizes Big Pharma — i.e., the private pharmaceutical companies that create, develop, and manufacture the drugs that all these socialized health-care systems in every corner of the planet are utterly dependent on. He voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, a quintessential congressional overreaction (to Enron) that buries American companies in wasteful paperwork and hands huge advantages to stock exchanges in London, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

But why stop there? McCain is also gung ho for all the most economically disruptive Big Government solutions to “climate change.” Apparently, that’s the only change these candidates aren’t in favor of. When it comes to the climate, McCain and Hillary are agents of nonchange. McCain has an almost Edwardsian contempt for capitalism, for the people whose wit and innovation generate the revenue that pay for your average small-state senator’s retinue of staffers worthy of a Persian Gulf emir.

As for Mike Huckabee, last seen comparing his success in Iowa to the miracle of the loaves and fishes (New Hampshire, alas, was loaves-and-fishes in reverse: he took his Iowa catch and turned it into one rotting fish head in Lake Winnipesaukee), in Thursday night’s debate he was attacked for raising taxes in Arkansas. “What I raised,” riposted the Huckster, “was hope.”

Terrific. In a Huckabee administration, nothing is certain but hope and taxes.
Read it here.

There is a perverse quality to this election season. As Michael Barone points out no candidate in either party has been able to win more than one contest to date. On the Republican side Romney, McCain, and Huckabee have each won one state. For the Democrats Hillary and Barak each have one. Still, a couple of patterns have emerged.

For the Democrats, experience and competence are meaningless. Of the candidates Richardson, Biden and Dodd clearly had the best credentials based on their experience, but all three are now out of the race, which now features two one term Senators and a newcomer on the national stage. This is not an election for serious people -- it runs on sizzle and style and substance is completely forgotten. It doesn't matter how absurd or vaporous the statements made by Hillary or Edwards or Obama, they resonate with a party that long ago left the real world to take up residence in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

The Republicans, too, have shown a marked tendency -- toward a rejection of conservatism. So far the two favored candidates have been Huckabee and McCain, both of whom have rejected just about everything that conservatives have stood for. Romney is also doing fairly well, but is not trusted by conservatives because of his liberal past. For most of the primary season Giuliani was the favorite in national polls. Conservatives lag far behind.

What seems to be afflicting both parties is the presence, so far, of large numbers of independents interfering with the selection process. It has been independents who have driven the campaign of that nice young man from Illinois who has been giving Hillary so much trouble, and it is independents who keep McCain afloat. Huck has his own special constituency, evangelicals, who have long had a troubled relationship with the Republican mainstream.

Such is the state of the political parties today that neither can win an election depending on its core constituencies, yet neither can attract independents without abandoning its fundamental principles. And unfortunately most independents, at least on current evidence, are deeply unserious people who view elections as simply a way to make a statement, rather than to choose qualified individuals to preside over the mechanisms of government. And if all you want to do is make a statement, then why not vote for the chick, or the black guy, or the preacher man, or the libertarian loon, or the UFO freak?