Arnold Kling  

My Election Assessment

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I conclude,


None of the leading contenders for President in 2008 has the humility factor going for them. You just have to close your eyes and hope that whoever we elect does only minimal damage.

I continue to view elections as an opportunity for voters to provide a check against politicians. Instead, if you view it as an opportunity to elect a great leader, you are falling into the trap of what Daniel Klein calls "the people's romance." Incidentally, Klein is interviewed this week on econtalk, and the interview includes some discussion of the people's romance concept.


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COMMENTS (9 to date)
BGC writes:

I would disagree that humility is an asset in a leader - that works fine until the leader actually has a job that needs a leader to do it, when they would be useless.

The problem with McCain is that he is just too old, and that is that. You can't argue with biology.

Thomas Sowell says this clearly: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell012508.php3

Intellectuals can argue the irrelevance of age, but I don't think the mass of Amercian's will be convinced. McCain would surely lose against whoever the Democrats run against him - so long as the opponent was not in their 70s.

Matt C writes:

Is humility a reasonable quality to hope for in a presidential candidate? I doubt it. Voters like confidence and energy. Who was the last plausibly-humble presidential candidate? Maybe Dole. He lost.

I agree that elections are best viewed as a chance to get rid of bad politicians. But if that is your view, how can you not support a Democrat--any Democrat--in the current presidential election? Neither McCain nor Romney are repudiating Bush's policies. I suppose if you are OK with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran (pending) and the War on Terror it helps.

I'd rather not see a Democrat president with a Democrat congress, but I really blame the Republicans there too. Let the Rs get trashed in this election and maybe they can do some good as an opposition party in the future.

John Thacker writes:

Intellectuals can argue the irrelevance of age, but I don't think the mass of Amercian's will be convinced. McCain would surely lose against whoever the Democrats run against him - so long as the opponent was not in their 70s.

Ronald Reagan was born in February 1911. He was 69 when first elected, 73 when elected to his second term. Mondale was 56.

Surely you've heard of Reagan's masterful response in the 1984 debates, "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience," to a question about being the oldest President in history and whether he would be able to function?

That doesn't prove that McCain would win, obviously, but neither would he "surely lose."

Ajay writes:

I have wondered why this blog has stayed out of the political fray but it is good to see that you're considering the candidates, Arnold. I'm unsure why you don't support McCain or even seem to consider Romney your top candidate. Let me quote you a part of McCain's great New Hampshire primary victory speech:

I seek the nomination of a party that believes in the strength, industry, and goodness of the American people. We don’t believe that government has all the answers, but that it should respect the rights, property and opportunities of the people to whom we are accountable. We don’t believe in growing the size of government to make it easier to serve our own ambitions. But what government is expected to do, it must do with competence, resolve and wisdom.

It's pretty clear to me that the only major party candidate that libertarians should support is McCain. Romney put in an ineffective, quasi-universal healthcare system in Massachusetts while McCain supports medical savings accounts, both points that Arnold has noted previously. McCain was also one of only 8 republican senators to vote against the medicare prescription drug benefit. Romney ran Massachusetts as a leftist and yet people somehow now view him as more conservative just because he now claims to have gotten the faith. Yes, McCain also panders to the public's ignorance with his AGW position but pandering is what politicians do. It is a matter of degree and Romney's cynical flip-flops on a variety of issues are far worse than McCain's strategic pandering on the AGW issue.

Dan Weber writes:

McCain seems stock full of bile and vinegar. I have some concerns about him, but him being "old" has nothing to do with it.

"Americans will never vote for an old guy." Well, "Americans will never vote for a black man." All the candidates this time 'round have something that certain folks think is "unelectable," but we've got to elect *someone*.

The check against politicians is voting in an opposition party. One party in Congress the other in the White House.

I always vote for gridlock. Our best (i.e. least worst) governance is when the parties curb each others excesses (e.g., Clinton & Newt, Reagan & Rostenkowski). Cato and the Heritage Foundation have written on it and even measured the theory against fiscal sobriety, I believe.

RL writes:

Dan W: " All the candidates this time 'round have something that certain folks think is "unelectable," but we've got to elect *someone*."

Dan has hit on the problem right there...the view of the mass of the American people that they MUST be ruled...

Snark writes:
I would disagree that humility is an asset in a leader - that works fine until the leader actually has a job that needs a leader to do it, when they would be useless.
Is humility a reasonable quality to hope for in a presidential candidate? I doubt it.

You gentlemen are seemingly unacquainted with the accomplishments of one or our greatest presidents, whose legacy and character were defined by humility.

Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able and yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom. — William Penn

waldo writes:

Given McCain's history, we may as well have a democrat president with a democrat congress. We can expect more balances than checks, changing the face of the republican party in the process.

On the issue of age, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "Senator you're no Ronald Reagan."

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