While it might have been possible for a Republican to have won this election, given all the negatives of an unpopular lame-duck incumbent of the same party, and the hagiographic media coverage awarded to Obama, McCain as a candidate and his unbelievably inept campaign were not the way. As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does,” and we now have the less than gallant commentary of certain McCain campaign officials suggesting that Sarah Palin lost it for them.
Palin may have her faults, but no one can seriously argue that she hurt the campaign. She energized it, but she was not enough. McCain never took on the Democrats’ many foibles, including the fact that they were primarily the ones behind the financial meltdown, and that Obama was one of the biggest recipients of Fannie Mae campaign cash. Never mind that the vast majority of McCain’s positions were essentially indistinguishable from garden variety liberalism, or that he seemed to be attacking his would-be supporters—including the Swift-Boaters and aggressive state Republican organizations that wanted to really take on Obama.
In fact, I will probably think even less of McCain if he doesn’t quickly defend his running mate from the brickbats of his own campaign staff. But, don’t hold your breath.
I knew that McCain had lost the day he decided to “suspend” his campaign during the vote on the bailout. This would have made good sense if he had come to Washington to rally the troops—and there were many—against the bill, but he did no such thing. What a great opportunity to distance himself from Bush! Instead, he went against the will of more than 90% of the electorate, and voted for it, just like Obama. A more stupid campaign move can scarcely be conceived. Some maverick.
So, what do the next four or eight years have in store for us?
Certain pundits on the Right are painting a doomsday scenario, whereby Obama will use every trick in the book to set forth a socialist agenda. They believe that with a combination of the Fairness Doctrine, a series of Executive Orders, and numbers in both houses of Congress sufficient to pass whatever they like (except for filibustering in the Senate), the country could change considerably. Moreover, they argue that Obama can pull a 1936 FDR-like move in which he would stress that he needs more time (another term) to get his plans going.
In the 1936 election, some of FDR’s programs such as unemployment insurance and Social Security were quite popular, even if the Republicans were correct in condemning Social Security. FDR would defeat Republican Alf Landon (another poor campaigner) in a landslide. It would not be until the 1940 election that FDR’s policies would be exposed and understood by most people to have been an abject failure. Had the election not occurred under the shadow of the war in Europe, FDR would probably have lost to Wendell Willkie.
OK, the doomsayers can cite an interesting analogy, but I don’t think it applies to our era. For one thing, voters these days would have no qualms abandoning a current administration or party in the midst of a war, let alone the winds of war blowing elsewhere. For another, people are far less patient, and would not easily grant Obama another term if his remedies were not already working.
Even if he and the Congress want to pass all sorts of socialist legislation, there is the little problem of no money and a huge deficit. Then there’s the matter of trying to pass tax increases in a down economy. Democrat or not, members of Congress have to get reelected every two years, and selling a tax increase to people already scraping to get by will be extremely difficult.
Finally, we have seen that the elite media can turn on a dime. At the beginning of the primary season they were all for Hillary Clinton, and then virtually overnight changed to Obama. In fact, the Republicans can take advantage of the fickle media by criticizing everything Obama tries to do, and when some of his efforts fail, their attitudes could suddenly get traction.
Obama’s fatal mistake could have been setting expectations way too high. When he is unable to deliver, watch the press honeymoon go up in smoke.