Thursday, March 13, 2008

Novelty Is For Party Favours

I've noticed Q's musings on who McCain should choose as his VP running mate in the lead-up to the U.S. Presidential Election in November. I'm not convinced he really needs to counter a "novelty factor" in the first place.

No question: Obama is a novelty in American politics. He "speaks well" (as Joe Biden infamously mentioned), he has poise and presents a vision (albeit a little light on the details) for the country. Oh, and he's black. Now, I don't think being black is the novelty in and of itself. Its that he is a black candidate who hasn't made being black a cornerstone of his campaign. He's a junior senator who happens to be black.

On the other hand, Senator Hillary Clinton is the first serious female candidate and a former first lady. Interesting background, to be sure. But that's where the novelty stops for her. As far as being a Senator, Washington Insider, or whatever other moniker you'd like to give her, she is as status quo as it gets in terms of past presidential candidates.

Now, it should be mentioned that this "novelty" can be just as much of a drag on their electability. There are - sadly - many, many voters who would never vote for a woman or a black man. I believe in the reverse Bradley factor: people say they will vote for a black person to a pollster, but when it comes down to it, they won't. Same goes for a female. That's just the way it is. And that drag is even more difficult than the "O Factor" to measure.

Now to McCain: I believe that U.S. voters take the job of electing a President very seriously. Especially in a time of war for their country and an extremely volatile global political climate, slow down in the economy and a deficit spinning out of control, the next President is facing some serious challenges from Day One. Everything I've read, listened to and watched over the past year tells me that the average American voter understands this.

McCain needs to address the concerns and desires of the American people, not counter some hyped-up ticket on the Democratic side. What are those desires? Obviously, change. But what does "change" mean? A change from what?

I think its a change from the divisive, mean-spirited wedge politics that President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove represent. The widely held view in the U.S. is that this Administration judges worth on a loyalty scale, not a competency one. It is more about conforming to George W's world view than it is about serving the country.

As we've seen in Ontario, wedge politics has its limit. Karl Rove may be a brilliant strategist and has had unquestionable electoral success, but you can't be a one-trick pony; you need to adjust to the hard political realities and the shifting priorities of the electorate. Poll after poll has indicated that voters in the U.S. are sick of the hyper partisanship in Washington and just want their officials to get things done - not blame the other guy. Attack ads are great, but you need to know your audience. Voters want to hear what you are going to do, not why your opponent is an immoral, gutless, corrupt lifetime politician.

I don't think people are moving towards Obama because he's black - they are interested in him because he speaks a language of dreams and hope. Flighty? Sure. Empty calories? You bet. But his success shows one thing: the American public are willing to overlook a lack of experience for someone with a positive vision. He is a novelty because when it comes to the prototypical politician, he goes against type - he looks relaxed and comfortable in his own skin; he has this sense of calm no matter what the situation; he comes off as polished without looking slick and he has shown that he can work with politicians of all stripes. When you look at the current cast of characters in Washington , Obama is a novelty, to say the least. I don't like his policies, but I love his style.

In his own way, McCain is just as much a novelty. He is an actual true war hero. His family has a proud military background. He has never hesitated to break with his party when he felt it was necessary (or, to be fair, expedient) and he hasn't exactly conformed with what people views as "insider Washington": he fought for campaign finance reform and was a strong supporter of the surge in Iraq when everyone else was ducking for cover. He was on Letterman and SNL long before he was running for President.

McCain needs to show that he is no George W. Bush and that he will do things much differently. His VP choice needs to reflect that message. If I were him, these are the qualities I'd be looking for. The person needs to be:

Some may say that's Mitt Romney, and he definitely has some of those qualities. But I think he's be a horrible choice. He is as slick as they come and has demonstrated that he will adopt whatever position he thinks the people want to hear. Further, his Mormon faith, as deep as it is, doesn't count for much where they need it. Many are suspicious of this particular religion, so he would be as divisive as he would be helpful.

Sorry, Q: Condi would be awful. She is as close to George W. Bush as you can get and is one of the architects of Iraq. As well, she would be subject to endless questions about what she did or did not know about 9/11 during the entire campaign. Not to mention that it would be so obvious that they were trying to counter Obama that it would almost be laughable. if you really want to go down that road, Colin Powell would be a better choice.

So who should it be? I'm sure CH readers have better suggestions than I. I'm not up to date to every present and former governor or GOP congressman or state legislator.

I'm just the opinionated dude. Don't look to me to find a solution. I'm mucn too lazy for that.

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