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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Conservative South Dakota Blogger Abandons McCain

That blogger emeritus Professor Jon Schaff would deem Senator Barack Obama unworthy of your vote is no surprise. That Schaff, a pillar of South Dakota conservatism online, would level the same criticism against Senator John McCain is at least somewhat surprising. In a reprint of his Aberdeen American News commentary, Schaff criticizes McCain's futile focus on earmarks ("a tiny fraction of government spending"), his lazy advocacy of an across-the-board spending freeze, his lack of specifics on reforming Social Security and Medicare, and his "idealistic belief that nations can be made democratic by force coupled with wishful thinking."

Schaff uses no gentler words to describe Obama's plans. Actually, in places Schaff cleverly uses identical words to lambaste Obama and McCain.

I agree with Schaff's criticism of Obama's and McCain's responses on spending cuts. Both candidates have failed to "cowboy up" and say what we have to give up to pay our debts. We need some fiscal tough love... even if the Rove/Plouffe playbooks say tough love doesn't win you elections.

I disagree with Schaff's contention that Obama's foreign policy will be based on naïveté and eloquence. Even if you totally discount Obama's good sense, it's hard to imagine the other folks in the room—Biden, Lugar, Jones, Powell—recommending Obama do nothing but go make a speech at the U.N. to tackle the world's problems.

But what I find most significant is this very salient example of a committed South Dakota conservative apparently abandoning the Republican candidate (and doing so, unlike many of the other conservatives I've cited here, without mentioning Palin):

Both candidates advocate taxing and spending policies sure to drive our public debt even higher. Both candidates are making us a deal. Indulge ourselves now and let future generations pay for it. I haven't met the person who doesn't like being given stuff and letting someone else pay for it. The fact that we will accept this deal says as much about us as it does about the politicians.

But we don't have to agree to this. Perhaps this is an election to vote “none of the above” [Jon Schaff, "None of the Above," South Dakota Politics, 2008.10.20]

This may excite the Jackrabbit and my other third-party friends, although it is unclear whether Schaff is urging us to go for Nader or Barr or to simply mark no one on the Presidential portion of the ballot. Schaff has spoken previously against the notion of bolting from the Republican Party for the sake of moral consistency. He warned his fellow conservatives last year that forming a third party in response to the nomination of Giuliani would have done nothing but ensure a Clinton victory (seems so long ago now, doesn't it?):

I suppose such social conservatives will call this a moral victory. They will take pride, right after their fall, for remaining consistent in their views. Like Tom Tancredo they will pat themselves on the back for not voting for the "lesser of two evils" and ignore the fact that they helped elect the greater of two evils. Acting like children crying over not being able to get exactly what they want, they will get exactly what they don't want.

As a friend of mine likes to say, in one sense a moral victory is a kind of victory. In another more important sense, a moral victory is a defeat [Jon Schaff, "Social Conservatives, Presidential Politics, and Moral Victories," South Dakota Politics, 2007.10.12].

Obama is still my second choice; I miss the straight talk and on-the-sleeve idealism of Dennis Kucinich. Still, I don't feel I'm stuck choosing the lesser of two evils. I actually believe Obama can do greater good than McCain. Even though my dad has already canceled my vote with his absentee ballot, I still want to vote for the man who can change the status quo and will ask us to help. Maybe my own vote is just a different flavor of moral victory, but I want to vote for the best man on the ballot, and in 2008, that's Barack Obama.

If conservatives want to move en masse to support Bob Barr, I can live with that. (Plus, Barr's VP has better education and business experience than McCain's sidekick.) But "None of the above"? Not an option. Not at this point. If you want none of the above, start circulating your petitions... for 2012.

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