Seven simple reasons.
1. He disagrees with John McCain about absolutely everything. Sailer has described the Bush philosophy as “Invade the World, Invite the World, In Hoc to the World.” McCain was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War, and is the strongest proponent of the idea that America needs to maintain a significant presence in that country indefinitely. He’s a hawk on Iran, but he’s also a hawk on North Korea, on China, on Russia – if Steve is against an “invade the world” foreign policy, he’s against McCain. McCain is also the most enthusiastic major Republican supporter of a liberal immigration policy, having co-authored the failed comprehensive reform legislation, and having repeatedly returned to the theme that some legislation of that kind needs to be passed. And McCain, while he has a reputation of being a hawk on spending, is now running on a frankly fantastical fiscal plan that would massively expand the national debt. Now, I personally don’t think McCain is going to invade the whole world, nor do I think McCain’s fantasy budget bears any meaningful resemblance to what would actually be passed if he were President. But the fact is, he is running on a platform that is the exact opposite of what Sailer believes. (And immigration reform of a liberal cast is somewhat more likely to pass in a McCain than in an Obama Administration, simply because McCain would give it bi-partisan cover.) How can he vote for the guy?
2. The GOP must be punished. Sailer commented in 2004 regarding Bush’s reelection that a lot of the people he knew who were supporting Bush didn’t really agree with Bush about key elements of his program, and didn’t actually think he was doing a very good job. They were voting for him anyway because of partisan or cultural inertia, or because they couldn’t stand that Kerry fellow. To which he responded: if you reward this kind of behavior with reelection, you just get more of it. Well, if he still believes that, and believes everything he says about the awfulness of the Bush Presidency, then he should not want the GOP to retain the White House in 2008: simple as that.
3. Obama is running on two things Sailer does agree with: national health insurance and withdrawing from Iraq. In his essay on ways to help the left half of the Bell Curve, number two or three on the list was some form of national health insurance, which would relieve a huge burden from old manufacturing behemoths that pay relatively high wages, and would relieve a huge anxiety from working-class folks who worry about losing their health insurance if they should lose their jobs. Any Democrat is going to work hard to get some kind of legislation of this sort passed, and Obama has positioned himself as being somewhat more business-friendly within the scheme of the Democratic Party on this issue than his competitors. While there’s a reasonable chance that McCain would sign a similar bill if produced by the Congress, the odds are much higher of getting a bill if there’s a Democrat in the White House. On Iraq, meanwhile, Obama is clearly committed to withdrawal on some timetable, while McCain is clearly committed to a long-term presence. And Sailer clearly favors withdrawal (on the grounds that we had no business being there in the first place). Moreover, on a constellation of other issues where Obama is to McCain’s left – card-check, for example, and upper-bracket tax rates, and possibly trade (though I doubt it) – I’m not sure Sailer is in McCain’s camp (he’s expressed support for unions in the past, as well as skepticism on free trade, and I don’t know how strongly he feels about keeping the upper income bracket’s taxes low, if at all).
4. Most of the things that Sailer most dislikes about Obama from a policy perspective are issues where he and McCain agree – immigration most prominently, but also the whole basket of race-related issues like affirmative action, bi-lingual education, etc. And on some of these issues, McCain is worse, from Sailer’s perspective, than Obama is. McCain is a firm supporter of bi-lingual education, for example, and was the leader on immigration reform; Obama, by contrast, is a follower of the party line on both issues rather than a stand-out leader. While I would expect an Obama Justice department to be more vigorous about enforcing civil rights law than a McCain Justice department (simply because of the party difference), I would expect a McCain Administration to be more easily intimidated by pressure from the left on this constellation of issues. Overall, it seems to me that, on these questions, Obama will only be notably worse if he can make a more left-wing position enduringly popular; otherwise, he’ll either be relatively cautious or provoke a backlash, and the damage, from Sailer’s perspective, will be limited.
5. Sailer is not a single-issue abortion or gun rights voter. If he were a single-issue abortion voter, I could see him voting for McCain simply to prevent the judiciary from shifting to the left (or to enable it to shift further to the right). If he were a single-issue gun rights voter, I could see him voting for Barr as a protest vote. But (so far as I know), he’s neither. I can’t think of any single-issue trump card from Sailer’s issue basket that could justify a vote for McCain or a vote against Obama.
6. McCain is old. Obama is young. Sailer has written numerous times about his concerns about the capacity of a too-old chief executive to function well: he would be more likely to be manipulated by his advisors, less-able to respond to novel situations and assimilate new information, etc. He’s also expressed concerns about a too-young chief executive being too rash and aggressive and insufficiently savvy about the ways of power, and that cuts against Obama; Sailer’s ideal Presidential age is late-50s, I think. But I think on-balance a preference for Obama on this metric is clear, particularly given that both men are only getting older.
7. He thinks Obama is interesting. Which he is. Who would he rather listen to for the next four to eight years? Who would he rather write about?
Sailer has spent a lot of ink arguing that the press needs to be tougher on Obama, needs to ask him more probing questions about who he really is, etc. And, you know, more power to him for that. But at the end of the day, nobody is going to do what Sailer wants them to, and he’s going to be standing in that voting booth having to choose between these two men, and which he thinks will be a better choice for the country. If the choice is not between these two, even with the inevitably limited information we have at our disposal, I think his choice is clear.