Andrew Sullivan links the debate between Steven Taylor and James Joyner over the merits, or lack thereof, of the Obama alternative for disaffected conservatives. From my point of view, which is a bit more apathetic than disaffected and libertarian than conservative, and thus theoretically (at least) a bit more analytical, things work out as being roughly outlined as follows:
- John McCain is, by all reasonable standards of analysis, more conservative than Barack Obama, across the issue space. (At worst on some obscure issue dimensions they may be tied.)
- All other things being equal, this means the expected policy outcome would be more conservative under a McCain administration than an Obama administration.
- Therefore, if you want to cast a instrumental vote, and you are conservative, you probably should vote for McCain.
Personally, I don’t think there are large, meaningful differences between Obama and McCain on the few issues that poorly map to ideology, like executive power, where there are few politicians of principle whose positions don’t reflect the partisanship of the executive officeholder. Obama is probably a bit more of a liberal internationalist than McCain when it comes to small-scale interventions, although I can’t see this making a huge difference or really being a useful voting criterion. By and large I think what’s happening in Iraq, rather than who’s in the White House, really matters when it comes to bringing the troops home sooner rather than later, although I suppose there may be a difference in the semantic game we’re going to play with distinguishing “the troops” who leave and those who remain. Afghanistan isn’t going to be fixed until the Pakistanis fix themselves, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. McCain as a hawk can probably more credibly produce a rapprochement with the various pariah states of varying degrees (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, etc.), but I don’t think there is a huge obstacle to Obama doing the same (he may just have to do less).
From an apathetic libertarian perspective, neither candidate is particularly appealing, although generally speaking I find critiquing Washington from the (Postrel-1990s Reason) economic classical liberal perspective more interesting than from the (Gillespie-current Reason) social/cultural left. As a future upper-middle-income government bureaucrat I suppose the Democrats are more likely to govern in support of my personal, short-term financial interests (throwing money at higher education, lower taxes on the “middle class” which seemingly tops out right at the peak Congressional salary, transferring more of my personal health care expenses onto the backs of Bill Gates and Mark Cuban), even if I have to balance that against the possibility that eight years of Democrats at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could fuck up America economically to the point it becomes Britain circa 1978, and the billboards won’t even be as catchy.
All this is, of course, really just a boring way of saying that since my vote really won’t matter I’m having a hard time feeling all that motivated to care one way or the other.