Sunday, November 2, 2008

Politics: Neoconservatives Should Want to Lose

DUNSMUIR, CALIFORNIA - I'm not saying that John McCain or Sarah Palin have given up. I'm not saying that the Republican Party should just yield this election. But it is rather hard not to escape the conclusion that the neoconservatives have come so close to achieving their goals that it is actually better for their objectives to have John McCain lose this election.

On the surface, it might appear that conservative ideas have been repudiated soundly by the current financial crisis and that this election will confirm that by sending them to the proverbial woodshed. But, take a closer look at what some of the neoconservatives wanted to do, at least on the domestic front. Grover Norquist famously stated that he wanted government so small that it could be "drowned in a bathtub," that it would be impossible for it to do anything to control people's lives. They basically wanted government to be impotent.

Thanks to the financial crisis, it likely will be no matter what an Obama administration tries to do. Even with increased taxes on the rich, there simply isn't the money to try to expand government programs in the way that Obama has promised during the campaign. Moderator Jim Lehrer tried to point this out during the very first debate, asking each candidate how their priorities or timelines might have to change as a result of economic conditions. Neither candidate offered much of an answer, but this was a more serious problem for Obama, since he had more promises placed in jeopardy, not the least of which was his health care proposal.

If an Obama administration can't live up to its promises--or worse yet lives up to the stereotype of being a tax-and-spend administration without an unquestionable economic turnaround--then the Republicans can simply run against that record in two and four years. People will have forgotten their anger at the Republicans if they have much more recent anger with the Democrats.

Furthermore, it appears that the Democrats will have no excuse. If the Democrats control the White House and both branches of Congress, as currently appears likely, anything that does or does not happen will be their fault. The Republicans will be perceived to have no responsibility whatsoever, no matter if the root of the problem came during the early Bush administration when the Republicans themselves controlled Congress. All voter dissatisfaction will be taken out on the Democrats--a scenario seen before in 1994.

Even on the foreign policy front, where the empire-oriented, go-it-alone attitude of the neoconservatives might well be coming to an end for at least four years, the neoconservatives may have actually won. Polls still show that while a majority of US voters may want to withdraw from Iraq, those same polls show that John McCain's calls to win first are preferred to the controlled Obama withdrawal. McCain simply hasn't been able to make this issue rise to the top of things that voters are thinking about as they make a decision in the presidential race. That's very different than rejecting neoconservative principles. In a different political environment in future elections, it is entirely possible that a candidate might be able to campaign on a neoconservative foreign policy platform and attract voters.

Indeed, there seems almost no downside to the neoconservative cause for the Republicans to lose this election. They get no further blame for the aftermath of their own mess, and they will get the future benefit of all anger with what may be coming. The number of people that believe in neoconservative principles may actually have a chance to grow.

The Republicans may suffer a significant loss on Tuesday. I'm not so certain that the neoconservative cause will.

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