It occurs to me that getting elected and being a great leader are two different things. Both these candidates right now, McCain and Obama, are in the process of trying to get elected. They can’t lead if they don’t get elected. The electorate is fickle and hard to predict. Many are uninformed on issues and do more of a “gut check” to make their decision. Others are party ideologues and others still are people with complex values that span the candidates and parties.
Bush, in my opinion, did the classic bait-and-switch, pretending to be a compassionate conservative while he was really very much a divider and not a uniter. I think a lot of people that voted for Bush regret it. At the same time, Gore and Kerry were so over-handled and wishy-washy that they did not give us a good alternatives.
With this race, it seems to me that Obama is tacking to the center and McCain is tacking to the right, both doing so in order to get the most broad base of support as possible. With Obama, he has the left locked up but needs the center to be successful. McCain does pretty well with the center but has alienated the far right.
On the one hand, I really believe the best way to get elected is to be utterly honest and true to your convictions and damn the consequences. I suspect that every political advisor on both sides disagrees with me. Thus we have this complicated and depressing “moving target” of positions, where the candidates try to reconcile their convictions with the reactions of the voters.
I personally wish someone would shake Obama and say “be utterly honest and true to your convictions and damn the consequences” but there is a very good chance he would not get elected if he did. Thus everything is more nuanced. I also wish McCain would hold true to those areas where he disagrees with the far right wing of the Republican party. We need a rational approach to immigration, not a black and white approach. Torture should be so off the table it never comes up at all. Campaign finance is a cluster fuck that hurts America badly. McCain was right on these issues and I suspect he will be a party-line Right Winger on them by the end.
So people will accuse them both of flip-flopping and pandering. I’ll just say it is your fault. We could punish people for trying to get elected but these tactics work and that’s why they do them and the electorate is to blame.