Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The recent loss of formerly deep-red congressional districts to Democrats is supposed to be awful news for John McCain. Actually, the opposite could be true.
We keep hearing that if Republicans can't hold onto voters in northeastern Mississippi -- or in Baton Rouge, La., or in the Chicago suburbs where former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert held sway -- they're done for. The GOP's rocket is hurtling to earth, and not even a special-case Republican like McCain can stop it.
That may be so, but McCain can step aside and let it splat. He can even point to the smoldering ruins as a reason to vote for him, with arguments tailored for different political persuasions.
His most promising audience is Democrats and others itching to slam the door on the Bush era but uneasy about Barack Obama. To them, McCain could say the following:
"See that sprawling wreckage of a once-mighty Republican Congress? Back in the day, it could frustrate your every hope and dream. Since rendered harmless, it can no longer stop your campaigns against global warming or for stem-cell research. (As you may know, I support progress in these areas and will work with Democrats toward that end.)
"I know there are things about me that make you nervous. For example, who would I nominate to the Supreme Court? Do you remember that I was a leader in the Gang of 14? That was the group of Republican and Democratic senators who worked to end partisan warfare over court nominees. The right wing skewered me for consorting with the enemy. By the way, my esteemed Democratic opponent, Sen. Obama -- the self-described 'great conciliator' -- refused to join the bipartisan team.
"You also want to know whether I'll ever end the Iraq war. Well, I recently predicted that most American troops would be out of Iraq by 2013. See, I can talk about timetables, too. And you'll note that former Obama foreign-policy adviser Samantha Power confided to a Scottish newspaper that the Illinois senator's plan to withdraw all troops within 16 months was only a 'best-case scenario.' His decisions would depend on what was happening at the time. In terms of future Iraq policy, we're not totally different.
"You're sensitive to my interest in privatizing things and don't like it. Take comfort that a strong Democratic majority in Congress will sit on such urges. I'm also aware that you're unhappy with my defense of the tax cuts for rich people that I voted against. Sorry about that. But on the subject of welfare for tycoons, let me point out that I've attacked a very popular farm bill that would extend subsidies to agri-couples making close to $2.5 million. Sen. Obama is all for it."
To Republicans who don't particularly like McCain, the Arizona senator can say this:
"Consider the alternatives. See the wreck over there? That's your conservative movement. Poll data on the Rasmussen Reports Website suggest another bloodbath in the offing for House and Senate Republicans. So there may be nothing to stand between a super-empowered Democratic Congress and its wildest schemes -- but me. Obama has a very liberal voting record, you know.
"You really don't want to sit out this election."
Divided government -- that is, the Congress in the hands of one party and the presidency in another -- does have many fans among conservative Democrats, liberal Republicans and, above all, independents. It stops radicals in either party from running government on the fumes of their ideology.
"He'll save you from their excesses" may not make a zippy bumper sticker, but that message could work for a lot of voters, and in McCain's favor.
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