John F. Kennedy began his presidential campaign with the support of a coalition of corrupt politicians and mobsters with whom his father had done business in the 1920s, when he illegally imported whiskey into the United States from Ireland and Scotland and sold it to people like Al Capone and Carlo Gambino.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt held together his huge liberal coalition of Democrats and Roosevelt Republicans by pandering to the racist leadership of the southern wing of the Democratic Party. When Harry Truman took mild civil rights steps like desegregating the Armed Forces, the Democratic Party began to fall apart.
Richard Nixon (and Republican leadership since) associated with the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who have approved of terrorist acts against gays and abortion clinics. Ditto Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. George H.W. Bush could be lauded for keeping his distance from them during his first run for president... if he hadn't jumped into bed with them in his run for reelection.
Far right mouthpieces will tell you that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are different from
Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. I don't see how. If Jeremiah Wright were a white evangelical fundamentalist instead of a black evangelical fundamentalist, he'd fit right in with Robertson, Falwell, and John Hagee. Some of the things he has said about gays and Jews are very close to the Republicans' favorite preachers. The sticking point is twofold. 1.) He is black. 2.) He believes the American government has failed black Americans.
He is wrong in his prejudices against gays and Jews, but that isn't where Republicans disagree with him. No, they disagree with the area in which he is right: he correctly believes the American government has failed black Americans. Some of the things he has preached are basically true even where not literally true. I've written about that before. I still stand by what I said. In fact, my foremost criticism of Obama on the Wright issue is that he didn't stand by the man. It is true that political expedience dictated this decision, but Obama's willingness to disavow his supporters (Wesley Clark is another good example) is still disappointing. I admire the man as a politician, however. He certainly isn't mismanaging the things that Gore, Kerry, and Clinton idol George McGovern mismanaged on the political side.
The difference between Ayers and the zealots of the religious right is only that Ayers' zealotry was humanist rather than religious. Even as the Robertsons and Falwells of the world sponsor and incite 'domestic terrorism' to bring the rule of God, so Ayers did to bring what he believed was a truer democracy. As the Republicans would never speak of Robertson or Falwell as terrorists, because of their influence and affluence, so Democrats often associate with former radicals who have influence or affluence themselves. Politics require this. As above examples have shown, it is nearly impossible to succeed in American politics without unsavory associations of some kind and all politicians are equally guilty.
Charles Krauthammer brought up Tony Rezko again. Discussion of Tony Rezko is as meaningless or meaningful, take your pick, as discussion of Charles Keating. If you haven't watched the film, you should. If you are for McCain in these times of economic difficulty, then you should definitely watch the film. Find it online, it's easy. Google the Keating 5.
If you are disgusted by the political associations of the candidates, than even third party hopefuls will disappoint you. Some of Ralph Nader's friends and supporters have belonged to far left environmental groups with agendas like enforced population control, including mandatory abortions and sterilizations or licenses in order to get pregnant. The Libertarian Party draws heavy support from the membership of the Hell's Angels, Bob Barr may have been to a biker rally on occasion. Define irony: Alan Keyes is running on the segregationist AIP ticket. Which means he has to know some people lurking around nasty outfits like the John Birch Society and various cultural purity kooks.
The gist of all this is that if you are an independent or undecided voter and you believe that you can only vote for a candidate who is pure and unsullied by questionable allies, there is no one for you to vote for. Everyone has been sullied by someone you may not approve of, whether by Hagee and Parsley and Keating or by Rezko and Ayers and Wright. If you truly wish to vote, then do so knowing that the candidate for whom you vote will have friends you don't like.