I want, at some level beneath that at which my conscious political reasoning occurs, to like John McCain - to like him in the sense that I could support his candidacy, or at least reconcile myself to it. His personal narrative is compelling, though I might admit to being tired of hearing about events which lost their salience before I entered primary school. His opposition to the attempts of the Bush administration to normalize torture as an element of American policy is heroic. Even the idea of the much-reviled campaign-finance-reform legislation holds its appeal for me. In execution, the legislation has been an abomination, so much so that one suspects that the stated intentions were merely a noble lie cloaking the actual intentions; but the idea of draining the DC swamps of the corrupting influence of various malefactors of wealth - well, that's a wonderful idea, if it entails shutting down K Street, and eliminating the corrupt and corrupting revolving door between business, lobbying, and government work. I'll give McCain begrudging credit for the idea, at least.
I find, however, that my opposition to McCain's candidacy becomes more profound by the day. I can state, of a certainty, as I once stated of Guiliani, that I will not vote for McCain, even if a gun is placed to my temple - be it the metaphorical gun of "the terrorists are coming!" or a literal gun.
I understand and respect the argument from the Court - the argument that a President McCain will be more likely to appoint competent, conservative jurists to the Court - having pledged to do so, though those aspersions cast in the direction of Justice Alito give me pause - and that such appointments could well portend the overthrow of the abortion license. Nevertheless, this seems to me a link in a probabilistic chain at best, and I have lived long enough to have been unjustly requited in this regard more often than rewarded, and by politicians famously less mercurial than McCain. I find myself concurring in the judgment that this strategy is a house of cards:
The idea is to elect politicians who may or may not appoint judges who may or may not overturn Roe v. Wade, which may or may not substantially reduce the legal availability of abortion, which may or may not affect the actual incidence of abortion.
I'll not lean on this point any further, except to note that I am profoundly skeptical that any probable configuration of Supreme Court justices will ever willingly rule to overturn Roe and its progeny, particularly the egregious Casey; this, because I disbelieve in the notion that the average justice is disinterested, and inclined to rule on the merits. Take any nine justices, and you'll have seven amateur sociologists terrified of the potential ramifications of a controversial ruling.
It is not that I am viscerally opposed to the sort of scenario sketched by Ross Douthat, according to which the construction of a genuinely pro-life America would entail a complicated and messy period of transition, during which a sort of pro-life, pro-family welfare state would arise, and the index of leading cultural indicators would plummet. To the contrary, I find the scenario plausible, and eminently desirable - one I'd accept in a heartbeat, if only legally-sanctioned abortion could be ended in America.
The trouble is that I regard the probability as vanishingly small.
Nonetheless, I'll assume in what follows that the probability is greater than that; there's no sense in attempting to provide a determinate figure, as these sorts of things are arbitrary, but I'll assume that the probability is reasonable enough to motivate some pro-life voters out of bed on an election day morning.
And even on that assumption, I cannot swallow the prospect of a McCain presidency. John McCain is the candidate of the foreign policy establishment, not to mention the neoconservative faction which drove the present administration into the abyss of unreason. If one peruses the anodyne boilerplate of the endorsement, and factors it by what can be known of the authors of the statement, what emerges is that McCain is a devotee of that strategy of openness that rolls the pursuit of global hegemony, a fetish for democratic capitalism and globalization, their concomitants, and all of the noble lies and ideological illusions that, of necessity, accompany such imperial conceits, into one baleful package. This is America reduced to The Idea; it is no longer America, a distinct place, inhabited by a distinct people, having a distinct culture, and observing distinctive political customs, but a simulacrum of that America projected onto a faux universality. This vision of global openness envisions the indefinite perpetuation of the egregious folly of Iraq, its potential extension into Iran and beyond, sabre rattling with Russia, the conclusion of the ruinous Balkan policy of Kosovan independence and Serbophobia, a refusal to abandon the paralyzing "Religion of Peace" meme, the augmentation of unaccountable executive power, and the hubris that remains uncomprehending in the face of its failures. John McCain will give to a nation in need of the bread and milk of self-government the stones of empire and the diminution of her sovereignty, for empire and international integration are, for the strategy of openness, but two sides of one coin.
Empire has an existential symbol, though, which, like any effective symbol, serves to make its reality all the more tangible: immigration. And here, John McCain is a multiculturalist, and an unrepentent one at that. For John McCain, America is a disincarnate idea, though, somehow, this spectral entity can be enriched, its blood enlivened, by the admixture of foreign nationalities. Enthusiasm for mass, nation-transforming levels of immigration symbolizes McCain's active hostility to the notion of America as a distinct national substance, and embodies his irrational animus towards those who partake of that substance. In virtually every conceivable respect, McCain is desperately wrong on the national question - from foreign policy to immigration policy, inclusive of most points intermediate between them.
This, in the final analysis, is why I cannot support John McCain; to lend such support would be to embrace the certainty of specifiable harms in exchange for the mere possibility of one specifiable benefit. I will not, and indeed cannot, ratify the reduction of America to an empire. I will not, and indeed cannot, ratify by my vote the dissolution of the American nation, the dispossession of her people, and the disinheritance of my own children; indeed, such an act would, for me, represent a breaking of faith not only with them, but with the direct ancestors who immigrated to a nation that will no longer exist if John McCain's ambitions are realized.
There remains one final consideration, one I have discussed with some friends; namely, the calculus that seems to be implicit in the stated (exoteric?) electoral strategies of the GOP establishment, according to which the New Americans will prove natural social conservatives: a trade of American national identity for the values of social conservatism. I do not imagine that my intuition on this matter will be palatable, but it is that such a bargain would essentially identify the American nation with various social evils, abolishing the nation in order to be rid of the evils themselves - killing the patient in order to eliminate the pathogens. Even as an hypothetical - though anyone who reads the City Journal now and again knows that demographic and political realities augur against such a calculus - such a rumination causes me to shudder, for this is a profound sort of alienation and betrayal, though seldom recognized as such, and I dare not leap into such dark chasms.
In summation, I cannot with a clear conscience throw my support to the campaign of John McCain, inasmuch as such support would seem to me to ratify a fundamentally unrepresentative anti-national consensus among the political and economic establishments, a consensus with which they cudgel us, and that with impunity.