Campaign 2008 in the Box

Sparking curiosity and provoking puzzled stares, Professor Harris proposed his model of Federalist and Antifederalist thinking provides a useful lens for understanding this year’s presidential candidates. Those of us who want to draw a straight line to match today’s political parties to the Federalist and Antifederalist perspectives were baffled. How in the world did Hillary end up in the same set of boxes as McCain and Bush?

The categories proposed for each candidate include…

Barack Obama is a red box Federalist driven by his understanding of us as a people committed to particular principles and one another.

Hillary Clinton is a blue box Antifederalist driven by a commitment to government and the solutions it should provide the people.

John McCain is a red box Antifederalist driven by a belief in who we are as one people of a particular nation.

And, another note of interest, George W. Bush is a green box Antifederalist driven by a firm faith in natural order, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil.

Each of these explanations could benefit from additional elaboration. What I’ve provided is simple and most definitely incomplete.

For example, it isn’t that Hillary only sees government or the blue box but that her campaign was largely a matter of policy proposals. When she needed support for her proposals, she appealed to an understanding of who we are as a people or what we should understand about natural rights. The American people are fighters who believe health care is a universal right. The category distinction a matter of where each candidate is most likely to stake out their first position and then where they look for support.

When I saw this video of John McCain’s new ad, I thought it spoke directly to the assertion that he is a red box Antifderealist. The conclusion and his purported slogan for the general election is the best: John McCain, putting country first.

If McCain is putting country first, he has red written all over him! Watch the video and consider what it says about who we are as a people and what we will do through government as a result.

If you find similar links to support or challenge the categories proposed for Clinton, Bush, and Obama, please post them in the comments!

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  • stepwinder says:

    For Obama’s red box perspective, consider his response to the Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit the use of the death penalty in cases regarding the rape of children.

    The Supreme Court’s position:

    “Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said there was “a distinction between intentional first-degree murder on the one hand and non-homicide crimes against individual persons,” even such “devastating” crimes as the rape of a child, on the other.”

    Obama’s response:

    “I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, that the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that does not violate our Constitution.” He added that the Supreme Court should have set conditions for imposing the death penalty for the crime, “but it basically had a blanket prohibition, and I disagree with the decision.”

    This sounds very mediated. There’s a recognition of the natural horror of the crime itself as well as the role of states in our federal system as long as the function within limits.

    And, McCain’s response from the red box:

    “That there is a judge anywhere in America who does not believe that the rape of a child represents the most heinous of crimes, which is deserving of the most serious of punishments, is profoundly disturbing” He called the decision “an assault on law enforcement’s efforts to punish these heinous felons for the most despicable crime.”

    These words suggest the decision assaults the very notion of who we are. It promotes the role of government or law enforcement to punish the criminals who are so completely out of line with who we are and demonstrate that by violating our ideas of what is wrong and what is right as a people.

  • hobbes21 says:

    Great post! I agree with each of your conclusions and wonder how McCain will change as the election heats. He got the nomination by courting those green box anti-federalists, much to my chagrin. Some have worried about Obama’s lack of executive experience; however, a negative argument can be made regarding Iago-like ambition.

    Why did Democrats say no to the blue box? Will the American people? What role does fear play in moving the American political psyche toward the edge, rather than toward the center..?

  • hobbes21 says:

    Another interesting exercise would be to look back at history and analyze past elections. What would you say about Nixon/ Kennedy, for instance?

    If McCain and Obama are operating on opposite sides of the red box what does that say about the USA in 2008? Where are we?

  • puckermom says:

    USA 2008: State of Nature. Under the leadership of our notably green-box Antifederalist president. Maybe the fact that we have two red-box candidates says we’re looking to come together more as a people, regardless of who’s at the helm–there has been a lot of de facto polarization (balkanization?) over the past several years, some arising directly from the Oval Office and some from the Administration’s detractors.

  • stepwinder says:

    I think puckermom has a point. Whatever your perspective, this campaign has been all about who we are as a people. I don’t think we rejected the blue box as much as we really wanted something more. Hillary eventually saw this and attempted to incorporate some of this rhetoric in the last few weeks of her primary campaign.

    You can quibble about policy details in a period of relative prosperity and good feeling. When there are real concerns about security and our place in the world, however, we all feel a need to think bigger than who is mandated to pay for a proposed universal health care plan.

    As far as who we are, we’re that braided people just as Will or Jeff Tullis suggested. This isn’t a zero-sum game. The key difference will be the vision of the people each campaign offers and where that vision leads them in terms of leading the government. Will it be a matter of principles articulated in our Constitution and our understanding of it or of values we believe are embodied within the people themselves.

    Fighting real hard to not sign off with a campaign slogan….

  • hobbes21 says:

    It’s interesting that the first round of commercials to play in Michigan were concerned with defining the candidates RE: Red Box.

    Now the focus has become energy. Here’s what the candidate’s websites say:

    There’s a lot of insight to the candidates through their policies. Using the boxes, one could highlight key words and phrases to develop a picture of that candidate’s philosophy.

    The red box stuff is still there, but one particular difference caught me attention. McCain wants to offer a $300 million prize to whoever is able to develop a car battery that will operate as the new platform in the automobile industry.

    To which Obama responded: “When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win — he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people — not just in the private sector but also in the public sector.”

    There’s purple and blue here; there’s federalism.

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