The Lesson of the 2008 Election
I haven't seen any pundit talk about the main lesson of the 2008 election: run a candidate that the voters like. A simple lesson, isn't it? Think about what happened. The Republican favorites were Giuliani, Romney, and McCain. None of them were sound conservatives. Giuliani was an out-and-out liberal, and an adulterer. Romney was an out-and-out liberal who promised that he'd reformed and was really conservative, and he was a Mormon. Being a Mormon is not like being a Moslem or an Orthodox Jew--- Mormons have some truly weird beliefs and require rigid obedience to the hierarchy. McCain was an inconsistent conservative, and a repentant adulterer. Worst, though, was that he had never been loyal to the Republican Party, preferring the praise of the media and the support of independents, and he clearly disliked social conservatives. If some real Republican had run, he would have won the nomination, Republicans would have been at least mildly enthusiastic and turned out in November, and he would have won. If even Sarah Palin, unknown governor of Alaska, had done that she would be our President-Elect. Thompson didn't run, though and Brownback dropped out early. Huckabee, a smart man, did run, and did very well, but it turned out that he was not conservative on economics and perhaps on foreign issues, and he criticized our conservative President too freely. Indeed, Huckabee seems to have been an old 1920s Democrat on everything but race.
How about the Democrats? A similar story, but with a happier ending for them. Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favorite, and she was trying to be moderate to get ready for the general election. The conventional wisdom was that she'd lose in November anyway. Thus, the Democratic leaders were unhappy. Also, she's unethical, like her husband, without having his likeability, and reminds people of the embarassing Clinton years. But almost everybody was too chicken to run against her. Barack Obama was not. Being Not-Clinton, he won, strongly helped by being a true leftwinger and being black. With the Party's left on his side, and the black and other party leaders secretly relieved he was running, he was able to replace Hillary.
Thus, in the general election the Democrats had acquired a candidate they liked and the Republicans had not. Democrats turned out to vote, and Republicans did not. Obama won.
It's too bad I was at Oxford last year. I could have run for President. If I'd had 2 million dollars I could have gotten the nomination maybe. More seriously, if I'd energetically worked to get some other unknown with brains, good inside connections, and no track record of professorial eccentricity to run, I could have gotten him nominated. David Mackintosh, Joshua Davidson, Mark Baker, David Snyder, David Frum, or Steve Calabresi would have done nicely. It's interesting that I have a harder time of thinking of anyone I didn't meet via college.