In the weeks leading up to the election, I had the displeasure of listening to some of the most bizarre talk radio I've ever heard. As was the case with Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry, I fully expected to be told that whoever the Democrat running for president was, that candidate would bring out nothing less than Armageddon.
Partisanship this election quickly went from silly to insane. Not only had talk radio suffered collective amnesia when it came to McCain's sponsorship of last year's amnesty bill (an unpardonable political sin at the time), but just a week after a Republican president and McCain joined forces with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to pass the greatest wealth redistribution package in American history, we were told to fear Obama because he was for wealth redistribution. Obama was the "redistributionist," said McCain.
The attacks on Obama became nonsensical because voting for McCain was nonsensical. Like battered wives, conservatives were ready to believe that McCain really didn't mean to abuse them all those years and that he really had changed his ways, if they would only give him the chance.
Meanwhile, most of the legitimate charges leveled at Obama — socialism, elitism, corruption — were just as applicable to McCain. And even the most significant difference, Obama's inexperience, was muted by McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. With nothing substantive to run on, McCain and his advocates were willing to say or do anything to turn the tide their way. Talk host Mark Levin ranted one October evening about how much Obama smiled. "Mussolini smiled. Stalin smiled," Levin reminded his listeners.
Eight years of rationalizing George W. Bush's reckless liberalism — open borders, endless spending, and expanding government — has all but destroyed the Republican Party. If conservatives were paid zero dividends in supporting Bush, imagine the inevitable bankruptcy that would have occurred in having to rationalize McCain's liberalism for another four years, who would undoubtedly have pushed the GOP even farther left? President Bush put conservatism in critical condition. A President McCain might have put it out to pasture.
Any serious attempts to limit government must first begin with the political parties who support such measures. But today, what major party supports this? Writes Reason magazine's Radley Balko, "The Republican Party has exiled its Goldwater-Reagan wing and given up all pretense of any allegiance to limited government. In the last eight years, the GOP has given us a monstrous new federal bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security. In the prescription drug benefit, it's given us the largest new federal entitlement since the Johnson administration. Federal spending — even on items not related to war or national security — has soared. And we now get to watch as the party that's supposed to be 'free market' nationalizes huge chunks of the economy's financial sector."
Every socialistic endeavor and big-government scheme conservatives are right to fear from Obama, they should have also feared from McCain. An Obama presidency coupled with Democratic control of the House and Senate will likely produce the same results as when the Republicans controlled all three during the early Bush presidency. The parties simply aren't that different. To reverse America's leftward trend, liberal leaders must eventually be met by substantive conservative opposition, not mere Republican reflections of themselves.
Like the 500-pound man who needs more help than a diet soda, even if McCain were successful in slightly slowing the growth of government — an arguable prospect at best — our obscenely obese government requires more than mere dieting. "Fixing" Social Security, "adjusting" tax rates, and "investing" in public education are temporary diversions compared to the conservative goal of abolishing each. As late as 1996, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole supported abolishing the Department of Education. Bush and McCain wanted more funding for Head Start.
Conservatives shouldn't be upset that Obama won. They should rejoice. The Republican Party needed to get its ass kicked before anything might improve. If Sarah Palin was ever worth anything to the Right, she undoubtedly would have been damaged goods after four years of McCain. In getting away from McCain, perhaps she can salvage what made her politically attractive in the first place. Only time will tell and now conservatives have it.
Throughout this election, arguing over whether Barack Obama or John McCain was better for America's future was like arguing whether the Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync would be better for the future of rock 'n' roll. Eventually fans of both groups grew up, realized they sucked, and made more substantive selections.
It's time for conservatives to do the same.
* This article was written before election day, Nov. 4.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.