For McCain …. Three Ways to Heaven

October 22, 2008

The Economist suggests three ways for McCain to turn the ship around in the final days of the campaign.

– AP

Three ways to heaven

Mr McCain needs to go in the opposite direction—and make serious arguments for serious times. Instead of Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and the rest of the gang, Mr McCain should focus relentlessly on three plausible criticisms of Mr Obama.

First, Mr McCain should point out that his opponent is one of the least business-friendly Democratic candidates in a generation. The great Calvin Coolidge once said that “the business of America is business.” For Mr Obama the business of America seems to be anything but. His experience of it is limited to spending a year working for Business International, a consultancy firm subsequently bought by The Economist Group. But he quickly abandoned the commercial world because he wanted to do something nobler. Since then his experience has been limited to the world of non-profits, law firms, universities and politics.

More significant, though, is that Mr Obama has always been particularly close to two groups that are the bane of most businesspeople’s lives—lawyers and trade unionists. Both Mr and Mrs Obama are lawyers. In a speech to a group of trial lawyers on September 23rd Joe Biden, Mr Obama’s running-mate (and yet another lawyer) thanked God that lawyers are “corporate America’s problem” and declared that there are only two groups of people that stand between “us and the barbarians at the gate—you and organised labour”.

America’s trade unions clearly regard an Obama administration as a golden opportunity to reverse their long-term decline: hence their willingness to spend more than $200m getting him elected. They want to get rid of secret ballots in decisions about unionisation. They also hope to get rid of right-to-work laws (22 states currently have such laws, which prohibit the “closed shop” practice of requiring workers at a particular business to belong to a union).

Second, Mr McCain should hammer away at the dangers of single-party rule in Washington, DC. The Democrats are likely to add at least another ten seats, and perhaps as many as 20, to their majority in the House. There is a real possibility that they may attain a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (Democrats are leading in eight Senate seats currently held by Republicans and are close in a couple of others; they control 51 of the 100 seats already). This will allow them to push through a wish-list of Democratic proposals on everything from “fair trade” to spending. The Republicans have only just started to point this out.

But Americans have a strong preference for divided government. America has only had one-party rule (with the same party controlling the White House and both chambers) for six years out of the 28 since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980—two years under Bill Clinton and four and a bit under George Bush. Mr McCain should argue forcefully that, as an experienced legislator who has worked with left-wing Democrats as well as right-wing Republicans, he will be the perfect man to check Congress where necessary and work with it where desirable.

Third, Mr McCain should point out that his opponent has never once in his career said boo to a Democratic goose. In Chicago he got on well with everybody, from the local teachers’ unions to the Daley political machine. In the Senate he has voted with his party 97% of the time. He toes the most liberal line on late-term and partial-birth abortion. Even a highly experienced Democratic president with a record of bucking his party would find it hard to tame a large Democratic majority in Congress. A neophyte with a record of going along to get along could find it impossible.

These are far from watertight arguments. Mr McCain is a military man who married his money rather than made it. Mr Obama bravely took on the Clinton establishment (though he largely did it by pandering to more Democratic interest groups). But this plan of attack does at least have the virtue of appealing to widespread worries about an Obama victory rather than pandering to the foam-flecked fringe. “Vote for me to avoid the Democratic deluge” is not the most inspiring political platform in the world. But it is the only plausible one Mr McCain has left.


One comment

  1. I have been beating the divided government drum for two years on my blog. I voted for John Kerry to get divided government in 2004 and lost. I supported a straight Dem ticket in 2006 to get divided government and won. This year I will vote to re-elect divided government by supporting John McCain.

    This scholarly article from a Constitutional lawyer puts more than a little academic cred behind the divided government thesis. The only way to re-elect Divided Government in 2008, is elect John McCain for President. It is the right thing to do.

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