The EFM Feature

Well, when I wrote prior to voting on Tuesday, I was trying not to tip my hand as to what exactly I was going to do. As you can tell from Nancy’s last post, we EFM-ers have discussed the matter and decided that it’s appropriate to bring these internal debates out into the open. With that in mind, here’s a rejoinder of sorts to the argument Nancy laid out.
You can probably guess from what Nancy wrote that my wife and I ended up voting for Senator McCain. I hinted at it — even joking that EFM should now stand for “Evangelicals for Mac” — in a post-CPAC phone call with Nancy, and that’s the way it turned out. Given — in addition to the challenging time horizon — that it required a very cold 6 a.m. walk to the polls, standing in line with Senator Obama’s many supporters in our area, and voting for the man who was Governor Romney’s once-and-again foil in this race, it wasn’t an easy decision. But I still think it was the right one, and I have a peace about the way we voted. Further, I would argue that supporters of Governor Romney’s who still get to vote — here’s looking at you, Pennsylvania resident Dawn Meling — should do the same. Why? Because on the issues that matter most — to me, at least — Senator McCain is clearly the next-best option, and he is monumentally better than either Democratic alternative.
Why? Well, when I decided to support Governor Romney, it was because of three issues: terrorism, life, and the economy. I am convinced that he would have been the best president in terms of killing terrorists (by bringing his “turnaround” expertise to our war effort), keeping unborn babies alive (by appointing the right judges), and protecting free markets (by keeping taxes and spending low).
Senator McCain is the soundest of the remaining candidates on these issues. He supported the surge in Iraq (which is obviously succeeding) before pretty much anybody. He fought for the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts (among others) and has pledged to appoint other judges like him. His record on cutting government waste is unparalleled. And he has promised to fight to make the Bush tax cuts permanent — preventing a massive tax hike in 2010.
Of course, he’s got warts — as our readers surely know. Some of his statements on Iraq have been off-putting, such as his remark that our troops will be there for the next 100 years — Senator Obama loves to quote that. Despite his affection for Chief Justice Roberts, he’s apparently dissed Justice Alito. And the word “flip-flop” has no meaning if it doesn’t totally describe his stand on the Bush tax cuts. He originally opposed them, using Democratic talking points, but now he wants to make them permanent. That’s clearly a political calculation, not an ideological conviction.
And that’s the other part of my point. While I am saying that Senator McCain deserves our support, I am not saying he is Governor Romney’s equal — nor am I saying that we should support the Republican nominee simply because he is the Republican nominee.
For instance, had Mayor Giuliani had been nominated, I’m not sure I could have voted for him — given how important I think it is that the GOP has become the pro-life party. That’s not something we should throw away lightly — because the other side will do everything in its power not to let us get it back. And sometimes, Republicans are just no better than Democrats. That’s why when I lived in Pennsylvania, back in 2004, I opposed Senator Arlen Specter in both the primary (when then-Congressman Pat Toomey challenged him) and the general (when I opted to support then-Congressman Joe Hoeffel). If we’re going to have a Democrat, he may as well have a “D” next to his name — then his misdeeds reflect poorly on that party, not the supposedly conservative one. I’ve voted for numerous Democrats, and even Greens, with that in mind.
Senator McCain is not that kind of Republican. Though he is much too liberal for my taste, his leadership on the key issues would be much, much different from that of any of the other remaining candidates. Based on the options available to us, he is clearly the best possible Republican nominee — and president.
But what does that mean? Does that mean we should throw ourselves fully behind him as we did with Governor Romney, and trumpet his virtues from the hilltops? No. I was kidding when I said we should change what the “M” in EFM stands for. Does it means we should engineer another Memphis? No. I’m not calling here for “activism” — to use Nancy’s word. I’m calling for something much more limited — simply not sitting out, as we may be tempted to do.
I’m saying that those of us who have primary votes left to cast should use them to get the best possible Republican nominee — Senator McCain — and that if he is nominated, we should vote for him in November. I’m saying we should do that having taken fully into account his many shortcomings, and making peace with the idea that politics — or, more accurately, life this side of heaven — never offers us perfection, yet we are called to make the best of it. I’m saying that for the good of our country, we — not just EFM, but all Romney supporters — should put aside our pride, forget the many times Senator McCain has treated us conservatives and our chosen candidate unfairly, and unite behind the person who is by far our nation’s best remaining option. And if after we do that he is elected, honestly, I would argue that we not treat him like we have President Bush — namely, giving him our full-throated support even when he falls far short. We should put our unreserved faith where it really belongs — in the Lord and in no one else — and hold our politicians fully accountable when they disappoint us and desert the principles we hold dear.
I apologize for being so long-winded — and, I fear, unclear. But I think there’s more common ground between me and Nancy (and the many readers who I know are inclined to agree with her) than is apparent at first glance.
Please do send your feedback — and don’t go away! This isn’t over.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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