Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Anti-Intellectualism of the Right

On Slate, Anne Applebaum lays out the case for why she can’t vote for John McCain. Chiefly, it’s because the Republican Party “has been taken over by anti-intellectual extremists.” An excerpt:

This weekend, while reading the latest polling data on John McCain, Sarah Palin, and their appeal—or growing lack of it—among "independent women voters," it suddenly dawned on me: I am, in fact, one of these elusive independent woman voters, and I have the credentials to prove it. For the last couple of decades, I've sometimes voted Democratic, sometimes Republican. I'm even a registered independent, though I did think of switching to the Republican Party to vote for John McCain in 2000. But because the last political party I truly felt comfortable with was Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party (I lived in England in the 1980s and '90s), I didn't actually do it.

The larger point, though, is that if I'm not voting for McCain—and, after a long struggle, I've realized that I'm not—maybe it's worth explaining why, because I suspect there are other independent voters who feel the same way. It's not his campaign, disjointed though that's been, that finally repulses me; it's his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party. His problems are not technical, to do with ads, fund raising, and tactics, as some have suggested. They are institutional, to do with his colleagues, his advisers, and his supporters...

[Since McCain's] traits appealed to me, I'm guessing they would have appealed to other independents, too. Why, then, has McCain spent the last four months running away from them? The appointment of Sarah Palin—inspired by his closest colleagues—turned out not to be a "maverick" move but, rather, a concession to those Republicans who think foreign policy can be conducted using a series of clichés and those in his party who shout down the federal government while quietly raking in federal subsidies.

Though McCain has the one of the best records of bipartisanship in the Senate, he has let his campaign appeal to his party's extremes. Though he is a true foreign-policy intellectual, his supporters cultivate ignorance and fear: Watch Sean Hannity's "Obama & Friends: History of Radicalism" if you don't believe me. Worse, in a fatal effort to appeal to the least thoughtful, most partisan elements of his base, McCain has moved away from his previous positions on torture and immigration. Maybe that's all tactics, and maybe the "real" McCain will ditch the awful ideologues after Nov. 4 if, by some miracle, he happens to win. But how can I know that will happen?

Here's what I do know: I would give anything to rewrite history and make McCain president in 2000. But in 2008, I don't think I can vote for him.

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