At last the dreadful suspense ends...
Go ahead, take a guess.
Did the former one-term, widely scorned president and Nevada Ideologues No. 2 and 3 (Gov. Jim Gibbons being, of course, No 1), after long and painstaking consideration, decide to throw their might behind:
- Hillary Clinton?
- Barack Obama?
- Or John McCain?
Aw, you peeked.
The non-development here, though, does point up an interesting phenomenon, perhaps the only one left in this tedious and enervating presidential campaign:
Do endorsements really make a difference? A positive difference?
I’ve been trying to imagine a scenario under which the endorsement of a politician might change my mind, and I’m almost unable to do it. Every effect I can concoct is deleterious: I would be less likely to support a candidate endorsed by Ensign, Heller or Bush (or Gibbons, for that matter). No matter how much I thought I liked him or her, one of them coming out in favor would send me looking for what I’d missed.
But maybe that’s not fair: I’ve long thought Gibbons and Ensign dwelt on the bottom tier of desirability where elected officials were concerned, and Heller has demonstrated sufficient obliviousness to seem certain to join them. It’s natural that I’d reject almost any candidate they favored.
But the recommendation of a politician I liked wouldn’t sway me much, either.
It’s a hard thing to measure, actually, because I don’t like many politicians. There are some I can tolerate, but it’s a stretch to say I like even many of those I’ve voted for.
My favorite national pol of all time is probably Jimmy Carter, a decent man trying to fight his way upstream against the confluence of a horrible congress and a perfect storm of bad luck, plus he’s the greatest ex-president in American history (if you want to feel even worse than you already do, imagine what kind of former pres George W. Bush is going to be).
So far in 2008, now that John Edwards is out, I’m undecided between Clinton and Obama—I’d rather see Obama in office, but the thought of how unhappy a Clinton victory would make a lot of people who deserve to be unhappy sustains me in my despair. If Carter were to endorse one over the other, I might go along.
Other than that, though? A recommendation by Harry Reid, say, or Nancy Pelosi or Barbara Boxer (all of whom I admire; I’m not using those names to indicate disapproval)? Probably not. I’d still go with the candidate who best represents what I want America to be.
Let’s be generous and assume that some conservatives are about as smart, about as honest and about as patriotic as I am, and that they’d demonstrate those qualities by, first, paying attention, and second, voting in what they saw as the best interest of the nation. I don’t actually believe that , but let’s just say.
So why would a recommendation at this juncture change anybody’s mind?
Certainly there was no possibility of surprise. Ensign has been as predictable as the coming of night (which he in some ways resembles) since his first day in public life, Heller works off the same script and Bush hasn’t had an original thought since, “Read my lips—no new taxes.” You could have predicted five years ago whom they’d endorse. That they waited this long to announce, you'd think, would weaken their endorsement even further: Even though everybody knew which way they'd go, they didn't jump until the nomination was locked up, so they wouldn't offend The Base by getting a half-beat out of step. Way to take a chance, guys.