Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Republicans' best hope

Of all the Republicans whose names have been bandied about as GOP presidential prospects, I think Charlie Crist--who will be stumping for the recovery package with Obama today--is the one who holds the most promise, for a few reasons. For one, he runs a hugely electorally important state where he is very popular. For another, he's a moderate conservative who really does live up to both terms. And, also, he's not as much a hostage of the movement as seemingly every other Republican officeholder these days, as one could see from his unwillingness to demagogue against ACORN and his insistence in honoring folks' voting rights. This isn't really evidence of ideological purity in any respect so much as it is a belief in a principle other than that anything that helps the Republican Party is good. That seems to be what Bill Buckley's movement has descended to, but Crist would likely make a popular, pragmatic president.

I suspect that these things will keep Crist from attracting movement support--I'm guessing it's Palin/DeMint 2012, and in 2016 we'll get another faux moderate, phony reformer in the Bush mold who will say all the expected things, and by then there will probably be a few scandals in the Obama Administration and among Congressional Democrats that the Republicans will be able to run against as superficial "reformers". I suspect that only if the GOP loses again in 2016 will they pick somebody like Crist, in much the same way that the UK Labour Party needed to lose a heartbreaker in 1992 before Tony Blair could take over.

In any event, who else has the GOP got? Bobby Jindal is problematic--he's smart and he has a reasonably good (though overrated) personality, but he's ultraconservative (perhaps too much so) and I think that religion, rather than race, will be the problem. Jindal would be the first Republican Catholic nominee for president. Even though there are some conservative Catholics I tend to think that this will be as much a problem for the religious right as was Mitt Romney's Mormonism. (Plus he has an exorcism story in his past that would keep him from being taken seriously by, well, anyone.) Jeb Bush is also Catholic, although his problem is his last name. Palin is a nonstarter--she's the right's McGovern. Huckabee might be promising if he'd stop sounding like a crazy religious nutter and move to the left on economics and foreign policy, and reorient the GOP as a Christian Democratic party. I don't know if he's willing to do this, but it would be an idea on where the GOP could go next, and probably a popular one. Huckabee, though, seems intent on coasting on his charm, and it isn't going to work. Romney himself is always a better candidate on paper than in real life, someone who somehow should be more compelling than they actually are. He's got a hell of a resume and the look and mind of a president, but there is an emptiness and a slickness there that puts off most people. And once you get past the top tier, you get people like Mark Sanford, John Ensign and John Thune, who don't seem to be able to persuade anyone outside the base over anything. It's actually quite likely that Ensign won't even win reelection in 2012 in a state won by President Obama by 17 points.

So, it's all up to Crist. Or David Petraeus, I suppose, if he ever wants to get into electoral politics.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.