James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Why conservatives may want to sit this election out and let Obama win

Posted by James McPherson on October 31, 2008

Obviously most conservatives will keep pulling for John McCain to pull out a win on Tuesday, and McCain likely will continue his unprecedented slog through the mud (tempered with an appearance this weekend on “Saturday Night Live,” where he can have a conversation with a fake Sarah Palin that is as convincing as his rapport with the real Sarah Palin).

Still, barring something dramatic, unexpected and/or illegal, Barack Obama is likely to win the election handily (as I predicted a couple of months ago). Even NBC’s electoral map, one of the most conservative, now predicts 286 electoral votes for Obama, with 89 too close to call. But Obama also leads in most of those “toss up” states, including Nevada, Florida, Ohio and Indiana. CNN’s electoral map now has Obama leading by significant margins in enough states to claim 291 electoral votes, with 84 more up for grabs. Even just the 291 count, which National Public Radio also predicts, is 21 more than needed (the exact total offered by Pennsylvania).

CBS has the only map I found that doesn’t yet push Obama over 270 (giving him a 259-163, but it also leaves more states uncommitted. As I’ve noted previously, the so-called liberal mainstream media want to keep things close, and don’t want to be proven wrong. Incidentally, Fox News doesn’t have an electoral map (perhaps because the network hates to air news that might be detrimental to the McCain campaign), but Bill O’Reilly does, and even he puts Obama’s current lead at 286-163.

Non-media maps have things looking even tougher for the GOP. Real Clear Politics and Congressional Quarterly gives Obama 311 electoral votes as of today. Even more notably, so does Karl Rove, the man once known as “Bush’s Brain” and on whom some conservatives now place much of the blame for the current woeful state of the conservative movement. Politico’s map gives Obama 353 electoral votes, and VoteFromAbroad.org pegs the count as 364-171.

So what’s a distraught Republican to do? For one thing, he or she might recognize that an Obama win might well turn out to be the best possible outcome for conservatives. It is well known that conservatives has been no big fan of McCain’s, and in fact they have only one good reason to support his presidential bid: the chance that he might be able to solidify the hard right perspective of the Supreme Court. But other than that somewhat iffy possibility, there are a number of reasons conservatives probably should favor Barack Obama, instead.

Addressing the court issue first, McCain may not be able to change the court even if he is elected. He would try to make the court even more conservative, but his nominations to fill the expected two or three vacancies would have to get through a Senate approval process. And the older, more liberal members of the court might decide not to retire, hoping to outlast or outlive McCain (and good luck to a President Palin trying to get anything past a Democratic Congress).

On the other hand, even if Obama has the opportunity to replace three justices, in all likelihood he’ll replace three of the more liberal members of the court with three others who think much like them. The overall makeup of the court itself won’t change, unless Obama makes a mistake–as Dwight D. Eisenhower and other presidents have done in the past–and accidentally appoints someone who turns out to be something other than what Democrats expect. Think of the delicious irony for conservatives if Obama should happen to appoint the justice(s) who solidifies or even strengthens the court’s conservative activist stance for a generation to come.

Even national politics are unlikely to change a lot–to to become in the words of a Times of London columnist “a liberal heaven“–or to change nearly enough, for some of us. We live in a country with politics that have become increasingly conservative, as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere.

History also shows that presidents, once elected, tend to govern more like the opposite party, probably in an attempt to build larger coalitions and to recognize grand ambitions. That might explain why Richard Nixon went to China, Ronald Reagan went to the Soviet Union, and Bill Clinton approved NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and welfare reform.

A decisive loss may help conservatives refocus their party. How they might do so remains anyone’s guess–Reagan managed to help create a coalition of otherwise distrustful neoconservatives, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, before the neocons won. Conservative Republicans already have a meeting planned for just days after this election to try to rebuild the party, .

Finally, back in 1988, I told friends that Democrats should hope for a win by George H.W. Bush, because in my view the economy was about to hit a rough spot and whoever was in office would get much of the blame. Bush won, the economy plunged, and Bill “It’s the economy, stupid” Clinton won in 1992.

The same is true today, though of course the economy is already in the toilet. But it’s not going to be fixed in four years, and unless Obama and a Democratic Congress take dramatic steps that I think they’ll be afraid to take, they’ll get the blame for not fixing things quickly enough–setting the stage for yet another Republican revolution in 2012.

Other predictions for the GOP in 2012: Mitt Romney will be the likely GOP nominee, and the Religious Right will continue to decline in influence.

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5 Responses to “Why conservatives may want to sit this election out and let Obama win”

  1. Mary Griffin said

    People are voting for McCain because they are smarter than the useful idiots promoting and voting for Obama and they see thru the hype.

    Obama’s Tax Advertisement misleadingly quotes a Heritage Foundation Analyst: “…the middle class would likely pay less under Mr. Obama’s plan…” So what’s REALLY on either side of those dots?

    The Summary:
    Through the lens of sound tax policy, both McCain’s and Obama’s tax plans would leave the tax code more complicated than it is today. Even so, McCain’s plan has important advantages through its focus on keeping tax rates low–and lowering them further in some instances–while improving incentives for investment and correcting an extremely harmful tax distortion at the heart of much of the trouble in America’s health care financing system.

    In contrast, the Obama plan raises income tax rates, raises payroll taxes on a delayed basis, and actively increases the use of the tax system to redistribute income to those who pay little or no income tax. Each of these aspects move the tax code in a decidedly inappropriate direction.

    On balance, the McCain plan would be decidedly better for economic growth, largely because it would lower tax rates while the Obama plan would raise tax rates. Under the McCain tax plan, the economy would be expected to be about $320 billion greater, and average household income about $2,600 higher than would be the case under the Obama tax plan.

    Read the full article:

    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Economy/wm2101.cfm

  2. James McPherson said

    Thanks for the comment, and the link. And while I’ve never edited people’s comments except to eliminate profanity, I feel obligated to point out–for those who won’t bother to read your link themselves–that the Heritage article you cite is not the article quoted by the Obama folks. Their citation is from the New York Sun and can be found at http://www.nysun.com/national/obama-aides-say-he-would-lower-taxes/83970/.

    In other words, “what’s REALLY on either side of those dots” cannot be determined from your comment or the linked article. So, to include more of the section in question:

    “A senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Rea Hederman Jr., praised Mr. Obama for proposing a 20% tax rate on dividends and capital gains, lower than a 28% rate he had initially floated, though still more than the current 15% rate. ‘That’s a great step in the right direction,’ Mr. Hederman said. ‘It’s a big change from what we thought the Obama tax plan would be at the beginning of the summer.’

    “Mr. Hederman said the middle class would likely pay less under Mr. Obama’s plan than Mr. McCain’s but that the Democrat was excessively reliant on complicated tax breaks that would make the tax code more confusing. “Instead of a grab bag of tax credits, lower the marginal rates,’ Mr. Hederman said.”

    In addition, your comment that “the Obama plan raises income tax rates” is true for some tax brackets, demonstrably false for others (see FactCheck.org: http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/spread_the_tax_hooey.html). You do accurately point out that the Heritage Foundation (a noted conservative think tank) does state that both plans would leave the tax code more complicated. And of course the Heritage Foundation does favor the McCain plan as a whole.

  3. […] the fact that less than two weeks earlier on this site I had predicted that Mitt Romney would be 2012 nominee, I changed my mind and predicted that Louisiana Gov. Bobby […]

  4. […] get this out of the way right up front: As I predicted even before Obama was formally elected in 2008, the 2012 presidential election will be a contest […]

  5. […] 5) Evangelical Protestants. Ironically, if these folks get their way in November, for the first time ever we won’t have a Protestant president, vice president or Supreme Court justice. Conservative Christian influence has probably peaked. […]

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