I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.
It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.
In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”
The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.
So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.
UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.
UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.