Ross Douthat, senior editor for The Atlantic,
generally an excellent and fairly non-partisan magazine, wrote an op-ed in today’s New York Times that deserves a careful reading by all who consider themselves political conservatives. He endorses neither McCain or Huckabee but expresses an opinion that I think is very accurate. He believes both men have been unfairly attacked by rabid ideologues on the right and argues that "the greatest danger facing the contemporary Republican Party
is ideological sclerosis, rather than insufficient orthodoxy."
This is similar to the very point I made about the talk-show hosts a few weeks ago. One thing seems clear now. These talk-show hosts have influenced very few people seriously in these primaries. Perhaps this will be one way a lot of them will either have to change, for the better, or they will have to get out of the business. (It has been rumored that Governor Huckabee wants to become a talk-show host. I think he would be a good one given his connection with ordinary people and his common sense and good humor.) Some talkers, like Ann Coulter,
seem to be in this to make an appearance anywhere possible, to sell their books and to show us just how important they are to the well-being of our nation. A little less hubris on Ann’s part would be welcomed by many of us. (I am told Ann Coulter attends a well-known evangelical congregation in New York city. If this is so I sure hope the pastor, who is a great Christian leader in my view, or someone who cares deeply about this woman within this church, will help her develop as a mature person. It strikes me that she desperately needs some church accountability.)
These primaries are good for both parties, though one could devise a system that was a bit more economical and efficient I am quite sure. They do allow the style and approach of various candidates to surface and the scrutiny of the people to decide who will be the nominee of their party in the general election. There is one real wild card in this equation right now. It is the talk that rages on television and the Internet today:
"If Obama, who won three more states today, wins more votes and more delegates, but does not have enough to win the nomination before the convention in August, will the nearly 800 ‘super delegates’ help to nominate Hillary Clinton in spite of the response of millions of people who voted?" Given the 2000 general election this would be a black eye for the Democrats for sure. This would likely split their party so badly that it could spell their defeat in a year when all the odds-makers think they should win the White House this year.
It doesn’t look very democratic to have the party leaders deciding to overrule the people’s will in the back room of a convention. It will make for an interesting convention. I am quite sure if it comes down to this the Democratic National Convention will get some of the highest television ratings in modern history, or at least since 1960. I still recall staying up late into the night to see if JFK or LBJ would win the nomination.
It seems clear, at least for now, that Barack Obama is capturing the sense of the people in his party and energizing them to vote for him in very large numbers. I am not surprised, as I have noted this for many months now, long before the first votes were cast. He is a bright, skilled and effective politician. His book, The Audacity of Hope, is well-written and engaging, even if you disagree with his very liberal political views. Whether he can become a great and skilled leader we do not yet know since his experience is limited to two years as a U. S. Senator and a few more in the Illinois State Senate. My guess is that he would be a formidable candidate regardless of this lack of experience. His lack of experience, in my view, would not matter much if he captures the imagination of people the way he is presently doing in the primaries. Whatever you believe about his record he is an effective communicator, a trait that we have not seen on wide display for many years except in two very different men: Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.
It does seem clear that a sitting United States Senator will be our next president since the three seriously viable candidates left are all three actively serving in the senate now. If this happens it will be only the third time in our history that a sitting U. S. Senator went to the White House. The previous two were Warren G. Harding, who died of a heart attack while in office, and John F. Kennedy, who was tragically assassinated in Dallas in November of 1963. I do not believe in "fate" but this is a rather quirky irony you must admit.