Permanent Campaign Makes Compromise More Difficult
The Boston Globe‘s Rick Klein documents the collapse of the alliance between Teddy Kennedy and John McCain on the immigration issue. His article’s subtitle says it all: “Immigration bill on shelf amid campaign.”
Traditionally, only sugar sweet feel good legislation has gotten passed in the months leading up to an election, as both parties quite reasonable fear taking stances on controversial issues that will be used against them in November. We’re four months removed from the last election and twenty months away from the next one. Yet, the 2008 campaign is already well underway and the attendant fear of exercising leadership has come with it.
My libertarian-conservative philosophy makes me view this as a mixed bag. My preference for small government is advantaged somewhat, as legislation is almost always in the direction of more regulation and less freedom. At the same time, though, controlling our borders and making rules for citizenship is a legitimate role of the federal government. More generally, leaders ought to lead at least occasionally, taking strong, principled stances on the issues of the day and subjecting them to scrutiny.
There’s not much that can be done about any of this, to be sure. The permanent campaign has become a fact of life and I’m afraid it’s here to stay. Perhaps movement to a national primary in, say, April of the election year would remove the incentive to camp out in Iowa and New Hampshire two years in advance, but we’d likely just see earlier national television advertising and campaigning on the Internet.
Regardless, this strikes me as a bad thing.