October 26, 2008

What McCain Should Have Done

As you may have noticed, John McCain hasn't had any kind of theme to his campaign. He can't go after Obama on what Obama is vulnerable on because that's all tied into race, so Obama gets a free pass on that.

What John McCain should have done in this race is embrace his Grumpy Old Manness and run as the we've-got-to-live-within-our-means candidate. Run against the whole Debt Debauch, the no-money-down culture, the get rich quick attitude. Run against Bush's campaign against down payments.

Don't run in favor of "regulation," run in favor of "thrift" and "prudence," on old fashioned non-ideologue conservatism.

Embrace his old scandal. Talk about how you let a donor get you involved in the S&L bad loan scandal in the 1980s, and that was shameful and humiliating and you learned a big lesson from that.

Talk about how your opponent just wants to take your money and use it to expand the number of government employees in his political base, social workers. And we can't afford that.

Of course, there would have been a big walk the walk problem with McCain, since he doesn't seem very thrifty himself. For example, he'd probably have what you'd call a gambling problem if he didn't have a rich wife. Like John Kerry, he's a good catch who used his attractiveness to women to land a rich wife. (Not a bad strategy, by the way.)

And I imagine McCain wasn't actually against all this stuff back when it was going on. Nobody who was anybody was.

But at least this would have given him a theme.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

44 comments:

c23 said...

He can't go after Obama on what Obama is vulnerable on because that's all tied into race

So? He could have at least gone after it through proxies if he himself didn't want to look bad. But we have barely heard of Rev. Wright since May. General election voters who weren't paying attention then might not even have heard of Wright.

David Davenport said...

But Grandpa McSenator lacks modesty and humility. He's full of false humility.

No way would he follow your suggestions.

jim sweeney said...

McCain is clearly an inept candidate but, then, which of the other prospective nominees would have been better? Guiliani, clealry. A go-to guy in stress [see 9-11]; an experienced executive [See NYC mayor's list]; tough on crime [See federal prosecutor and NYC mayor's record on cleaning up the City] and on and on. The Republican "base' deserves to lose. Only problem is that we all lose along with them by getting Obama AND [LAUGH] Biden. So, when the finger-pointing begins, let's look at the base idiots who put themselves ahead of the country. We will never recover from the Obama presidency coupled with the democrat Congress. Never.

Jim Sweeney

rast said...

Hell, if McCain really wanted a winning theme, he would get 70% of the white vote on a "deport 'em all and lock up the employers" immigration platform -- if he could be trusted on this or any other issue.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Well since the odds were pretty much against him on all fronts he at least could've finished the election proud of standing by the conservative message - if he had one. He might've even revitalized his fundraising from conservatives thrilled to hear a candidate finally standing up for principles. If you're almost guaranteed to go down to defeat, at least go down in a way that puts your party in a good position for the next election. But then McCain was never a GOP man, and the irony of this election year is that the GOP nominated someone who seems to hate the party. If only Mitt Romney had been a Methodist and/or a Vietnam vet.

FWIW, I really hope to see a lot of protest votes on election day, by conservatives showing their opposition to Republicans like McCain.

______________________________


Politicians have access to much better polling than, say, me. But from my perspective the biggest difference between the two parties is gov't handouts: Democrats want them, Republicans don't. To the extent that Republicans do want "handouts", they mostly want lower taxes. The other major exception is ag subsidies.

But the GOP leadership needs to do some serious soul-searching about what defines it as a party - what people seek from it that they can't get from the Democrats.

Here's my suggestion:

1) The GOP is for people who want a government of low taxes and small government, yet one that manages to pay the bills and is highly competent in those areas where it is responsible: education, crime, national security, disaster relief, etc.

2) The GOP is mostly a party of freedom, including the freedom to choose to use your tax money to decide where and how to educate your kids, who you hire, and who's the Scoutmaster of your son's Boy Scout troop.

3) The GOP values culture and education - just not some woman standing nude on a stage pouring chocolate down her body. While it agrees with and embraces the religious right on many issues, opposition to teaching evolution is not one of them.

4) The GOP believes in using market forces, such as tighter labor markets due to lower immigration and cheaper land due to same, to improve American prosperity, rather than expensive, inefficient and unsustainable government programs.

5) And, most importantly, the GOP believes in a government whose policies reward hard work, wise and responsible choices, and playing by the rules.

Any policy that contradicts these principles - including, to pick an entirely random example, amnesty for illegal immigrants - must be opposed on grounds of principle.

The GOP will never outbid the Party of Handouts, so it must define itself in a way that attracts people who don't want handouts, and who would mostly be paying for them.

Republicans are entering dangerous though not uncharted waters. For at least the next two years it will be entirely out of power in the House, Senate, and the Oval Office. The assholes who run corporate political action committees don't give a dime to such parties. That means the GOP will go into the 2010 elections seriously behind on fundraising support, and there is only one way to boost that support - stand for your party's principles and increase support from individual donors. There is a precedent for this - the Republicans used to have a huge financial advantage, espcecially among small donors. If they don't reactivate that support they will be out of power for a very long time.

Jim Bowery said...

No, McCain should have fully embraced the "maverick" plan put forth by the AEI's Charles Murray in his book "In Our Hands".

It would have totally destroyed the Democratic party while sweeping the election for the Republicans.

And who knows? By injecting liquidity at the base of the credit pyramid, it might have actually averted the huge tracts of rat-infested empty houses owned by banks while people migrate to tent cities.

Of course, since McCain is psychologically dependent on immigration, a Murray-style citizens' dividend would have clarified citizenry as stockholder in a land trust thereby exposing McCain's lack of fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of the United States. He would probably rather sacrifice his own political career along with the Republican Party and given the Democrats free reign for 8 years of political economic terror.

miss marple said...

"Run against the whole Debt Debauch, the no-money-down culture, the get rich quick attitude. Run against Bush's campaign against down payments."

Aren't you confusing McCain with Romney who may or may not have a good solution to the current crisis? McCain takes a simplistic punish greedy wall street types attitude. He's not interested in why this all happened. And is likely to be lured into the next crazy financial scheme which is wise for a politician since Americans don't like these periods of financial reckoning that require them to delay gratification and keep to a budget.

Then there's that amnesty issue that has to be dealt with especially if there are no jobs created by an illusionary real estate boom. Hmmm. Seems that enforcement could generate jobs for citizens while deporting the huge population of illegals would ease the financial burden on our hospitals, infrastructure and schools. Has McCain considered this possibility either?

master_of_americans said...

If I were the Republican nominee, my campaign would have been almost all negative: "Obama is a hardcore leftist" and "Obama is a corrupt Chicago machine hack". Little of this would be explicitly racial, except when the facts are incontrovertible, as in the case of the Jeremiah Wright issue, which I would hammer on relentlessly. Still, there would be a lot of opportunities for the public to read between the lines. This would probably backfire, as the media would decide I was the biggest racist since Orval Faubus, but at least I would go down fighting.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you should run a poll for a day and see how well your readers predict the winner and perhaps even by how much.

I just bet my husband that McCain would win. It's also fun to do it when he's so far down in the polls (What! Are you crazy!). My logic is this simple: he's the alpha male out of the two and we elect alpas to be president. One could reasonably make the case that Obama is the alpha by default of McCain's elder age amongst a couple reasons, but in my mind, McCain has that status.

Off topic, but the weakest, most beta thing of this election that Obama did may have been picking Biden, but my vote goes to the talking points of the Obamacons at the end who made sure to cite they were upset with Sarah Palin as a reason for voting against McCain. Love her or hate her, but the focus on destroying her screams Total Beta. The talking points about the tone of McCain's campaign were Beta, too. An alpha would have ignored Palin, talked right over her head to McCain when she got sarcastic and condescending, and stayed focused on McCain.

Reg Cæsar said...

You could call this the "Old Shoe strategy". However, just implying that the other guy's shoes are new has its own "overtones"...

If McCain is serious about winning-- and he probably isn't-- the best theme available is "yes, I suck, but he sucks more". That'd put him over the top. (And it has the advantage of a ring of truth.)

In fact, this strategy has worked repeatedly for the GOP since 1860. And why shouldn't it? The only Dems who have outpolled loser Samuel Tilden's 50.97% of the so-called "popular vote" are FDR with his anti-Yankee New Deal coalition, and LBJ with his own anti-cracker variation on that theme.

Don't believe it? Check out the list I posted at comment #26 halfway down this post.

John S. Bolton said...

A left that uses financial panic-mongering to get power should lose massively. If there were a theme to the campaign it could be the above.

Anonymous said...

Purports to be what a real pollster thinks.

testing99 said...

Steve, I don't think that strategy would work because it does not address Obama's electoral coalition.

Obama has as his base Blacks (12%) and Hispanics (13%) plus White Yuppies (10% or so of the population) which brings him to 35%.

Now, Obama is getting about 58% of White Women, which adds about 18% more, or brings him to about 53%. He loses White Men about the same percentage, or conversely about 58% of non-Yuppie White Men are backing McCain.

No one here seems to understand the electoral coalitions of the Democratic Party. It is, as the article in the Atlantic says, "So Long White Boy," i.e. a direct and firm repudiation of White men, and seeking to punish them and exclude them. As Harold Myerson wrote, it's an attempt to "erase" "whiteness" for "our glorious multicultural future."

Single White women form the basis for Obama's majority of White Women -- because there are far more single White Women than married women.

This is completely understandable. Single White women are swayed by status. Obama is the next thing to JFK, and while that positioning did not work with Kerry or Gore or Dukakis, it has with Obama. He's Black, appears more "manly" and women literally scream "I love you" and faint at his rallies. Obama is the Big Man and women, particularly single women, love the Big Man.

Married women depend on their husbands partially for income, so they look to the Democrats anti-White Men coalition and vote Republican.

NONE of your suggestions Steve address Obama's strength (taking Single White Women, and a more married White Women too) and McCain's weakness (unable to carry Single White Women).

This is a Gender divide campaign. Single Women hate most Single White Men (excluding Big Man types) and that's a function of demographics. I.E. the huge decline of Marriage and strong preference for Single Motherhood.

This is not anything to do with "affordable family formation" (women with enough money/power/status prefer Single Motherhood) or McCain's admittedly poor performance (Bush was even more inept -- and he won -- TWICE) but rather the demographic sweep of single women going for the JFK figure of the Big Man.

Tsoldrin said...

"But at least this would have given him a theme." - You hit the nail on the head there. I'd take it even further and say that McCain doesn't seem to have any vision, and Obama so obviously does. This is kind of strange, because it seems to imply that McCain looks around at the country and thinks everything is just fine, there's no new direction he wants to take it (even backwards).

On the old-manness, I think Ron Paul is the only one who can really pull that off and still seem to be a breath of fresh air. Still, it seems the only times McCain's campaign resonated was when it veered in a paleoconservative direction (Palin being mistaken for a Buchananite and the whole redistribution of wealth thing). McCain probably should have run with that from the get-go. He could have gently rebuffed Bush as a big governmenter and taken the sting out by pointing out how much bad luck Bush has had. He could have run against Obama, Hillary, Pelosi and Reid and called them the Politburo and told the people that they want to reverse the result of the cold war, ending stump speeches with rhetoric like "Don't let them do this to Reagan's memory!".

Overall though, I think there is something strange going on with this election. With everything working against McCain, including McCain himself... how come he's not getting blown away? He should be getting crushed, but it's still relatively close. WTF? Perhaps this says more about Obama than McCain.

Matt Parrott said...

Mitt Romney could have won this election handily. He would have rallied the anti-amnesty crowd. He would have embodied traditional family values. Most importantly, though, he would be perceived as infinitely more competent on economic matters than Obama.

Romney's a clumsy politician with shifty principles, but he's a competent technocrat with proven leadership instincts. I will never forgive the hucktards for wasting their vote on a lame stand-up comedian, allowing McCain to win despite being disfavored by the majority of the party.

Tsoldrin said...

On reflection, all McCain had to do to win was oppose the bailout. Whether he stopped it or not is immaterial, because the effects won't be felt until after the election. He'd be a hero of "the little guy" either way.

eh said...

Commenting on other economics related blogs at the time, I suggested McCain could have vastly improved his chances to get elected, if not outright sewn up the election, if he had suspended his campaign to filibuster the bailout, ala Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Instead like an idiot he embraced it; some 'maverick'. And what happened afterward? Once Wall St had their (hundreds of) billions the market tanked anyway.

steve wood said...

Run against the whole Debt Debauch, the no-money-down culture, the get rich quick attitude. Run against Bush's campaign against down payments.

But the Debauch wasn't just in housing. As a society, we live beyond our means on credit. Credit is what has fueled the huge consumer boom of the last 10 years. (How else could such delightful but costly items as HDTVs and high-speed internet access - using dizzyingly fast computers bought new every couple of years - have penetrated so deeply into the market so fast?) Running against the credit culture would probably be a good thing for the nation's economy and soul, but ... nobody likes tightasses, and it's very hard to run a campaign on such a platform without seeming to lecture and berate the public.

which of the other prospective nominees would have been better? Guiliani, clealry.

Yes, Giuliani would have been a better candidate by far except that he has a messy personal life, the details of which have never been fully aired (but undoubtedly would have been). Also, he is even less likeable personally than McCain. Finally, how could a former mayor of New York not be associated with the Wall Street mess? He would have been a better candidate, but he probably still would have lost, as Romney would have. This is the most Democratic year since 1974.

The GOP will never outbid the Party of Handouts, so it must define itself in a way that attracts people who don't want handouts, and who would mostly be paying for them.

The problem with this philosophy is that there are fewer and fewer people whose economic well-being is not tied in some way to the Feds. "Handouts" sounds good because it suggests welfare, but millions and millions of middle-class Americans depend in part on Federal dollars. First of all, there is anyone who is over 65 or who has parents over 65. There's anyone who works in health care or research. There's anyone who works in education and social services. There's anyone who works on defense contracts (you're not going to be able to slash spending on social programs without at least looking like you're hardnosed about cost overruns, needless weapon systems, etc.).

That's a LOT of people, and you have count their immediate family as well. There's really no way to make a significant cut in government spending without goring so many oxes that you become unelectable.

The days of small government are gone forever. The best you can do is try to keep it from growing faster than population growth, which is kind of what Reagan did except for the defense buildup.

Anonymous said...

Mr Sweeney, why are you blaming "the base" for the fact that the moderate McCain was nominated over the other moderate in the field Guiliani?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

That's a LOT of people, and you have count their immediate family as well.

That one cuts both ways. My parents just went on social security. I couldn't give a crap if the gov't cuts their benefits and they probably couldn't give a crap if the gov't raises my taxes to increase their benefits.

No, the real problem - one perhaps Republicans never saw coming - is that as wealth concentration increases you can can tax fewer of "them" to provide more and more handouts to "us."

Thus one good way to combat big governemnt is to reduce the concentration of wealth. And how do you do that without undermining the free market?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Mitt Romney could have won this election handily.

I wish. Probably not, but unlike Yosemite Sam he could have projected an image of competence and experience.

Anonymous said...

What should McCain have done differently?

Not run.

Truth said...

"McCain is clearly an inept candidate but, then, which of the other prospective nominees would have been better? Guiliani, clealry."

Doubtful.

His own kids were campaigning against him vociferously. If they wouldn't vote for him, why would anyone else?

Ditto with Huckabee, I think the only thing that terrifies the general public more than a black man being president is a religious nut who is going to start a WWIII based upon some faulty interpretation of bible scripture being president.

Romney however would have won going away.

anonymous 3 or 4 said...

"Thus one good way to combat big governemnt is to reduce the concentration of wealth. And how do you do that without undermining the free market?"

Captain Jack, I suggest you visit mises.org or read some Ron Paul as I intend to do soon for some ideas on this issue. The concentration of wealth may have more to do with government intervention than on the natural outcome of a free market system.

beowulf said...

Jim Bowery,

That's an outstanding point...I agree that Murray's In our Hands was exactly the platform McCain should have run on. If he'd promised smaller government, more equal income distribution (and thrown in universal health care as a side benefit), he'd have locked down Republicans, Independents and many Democrats.

For anyone not familiar with In Our Hands:

"The central proposal is for a basic income grant of $10,000 per year for every citizen aged 21 and above.

"There are two catches. The first is that everyone must spend $3000 of that grant on a basic health care package, which insurance companies will be forced to offer to everyone at that price with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, age, etc (the sum $3000 is negotiable for Murray—what is not negotiable is that there should be a residual grant of $7000, so that if the insurance costs more the grant would be more). The second is that all other government welfare programs (including TANF, Social Security, Medicare, etc, and all corporate welfare but not spending on genuine R&D or compulsory public schooling) would be abolished to pay for the grant."
http://crookedtimber.org/2006/06/01/charles-murrays-in-our-hands-left-or-right/

eh said...

...McCain doesn't seem to have any vision, and Obama so obviously does.

What "vision" does Obama have? All I ever hear are vague mouthings about "change". His whole campaign is just one big new political cliche: "change". I got tired of it months ago. As a candidate I find him substantially lacking in substance, and even rhetorically I find little that's attractive. I dread having to listen to his formulaic near-drivel for (at least) four years.

Anonymous said...

It is strange to hear people crapping on about more equal income distribution, as if income is a right.

Where I come from, you earn an income by working, not by being born.

Anonymous said...

What no one seems to have twigged to yet is that the coming recession is going to have a severe impact in Africa.

The developed world is no longer going to be able to afford largesse there, so we can expect to see a population crash in Africa and a bloodbath as people fight to be the ones to survive.

You heard it here first.

Chief Seattle said...

Captain jack summarized well what I want out of the Republican party, although he neglected to mention guns. If the Republicans had put up a candidate who was good on the spending and immigration issues, I would happily have forgiven them for 8 years of Bush. But the put up a pro-amnesty candidate who sounds like he never met a spending program he didn't like. So screw the Repubs this time. I hope the election is an absolute disaster for them, so next they don't forget who the real base is again.

Chief Seattle said...

testing99 wrote that "Obama has as his base Blacks (12%) and Hispanics (13%) plus White Yuppies (10% or so of the population) which brings him to 35%.".

That vastly overestimates their actual votes because both their eligibility and propensity to vote are lower than average.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Captain Jack Aubrey: But from my perspective the biggest difference between the two parties is gov't handouts: Democrats want them, Republicans don't. To the extent that Republicans do want "handouts", they mostly want lower taxes. The other major exception is ag subsidies.

First of all, McCain may very well lose Iowa's Electors & their electoral votes [and with them, the Electoral College] because of his staunch opposition to Big Corn.

Second - if you think for a microsecond that all Obama wants is "handouts", then listen to this newly re-discovered Obama audio clip, from 2001:

Obama Bombshell Redistribution of Wealth Audio Uncovered
youtube.com

At worst, McCain is a buffoon.

Obama, on the other hand, is at least a hard core Leninist/Trotskyite Bolshevik, and he might be far worse even than that.

.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

It is strange to hear people crapping on about more equal income distribution, as if income is a right. Where I come from, you earn an income by working, not by being born.

No one's asserting income is a right. We're asserting that high levels of inequality will lead to greater support for big government, which (I, at least) assert is indeed a bad thing.

Where I come from, you earn an income by working. But where I come from the government is often quite fond of tilting the playing field in favor of one (often very rich) group or another to suit its whims or placate its various supporters.

Reg Cæsar said...

What Cap'n Jack and those arguing with him don't consider is the very real possibility that Democrats want as much inequality as they can get.

Look at a map, guys: screamingly blue cities and counties are screamingly unequal as well. Much flatter income pyramids will be found in Republican cities-- or, rather, metro areas. The vote is less a result of the inequality, than the cause.

The quickest and best way to reduce inequality is to end immigration, at least of poor folks. In which party is this even discussed?

Asher said...

Limited government is a dead dog. You have two choices: rightwing socialism and leftwing socialism.

Remember, politics is the art of bending another to one's will, so, either, you're bending or you're getting bent.

Anonymous said...

That's quite a clip, Lucius. I haven't heard anything that so explicitly states Obama's goal of redistributing welath to African-Americans.

Jim Bowery said...

Where I come from, you earn an income by working, not by being born.

The inheritance tax must be 100% where you come from. Where is that?

The social contract entered into by sovereign individuals to form a nation involves territory -- land -- to be held in trust by the government so formed. You have territory prior to government or you die. Why would any sovereign individual enter into a social contract where his posterity is deprived of land?

If you have land that you own free and clear you also are entitled to its rent stream if not its direct use. That's the real basis for a citizen's dividend. This does say that we should be more careful about who we admit as beneficiaries of the extended family known as the nation, but denying it because you have been denied it is to simply acquiesce to the theft of your inheritance.

Voodooman said...

McCain should have been more respectful of the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. After all, in the early 1980s, D&Ders made up a large part of the military, and helped win the Cold War. Many of them also went on to invent the Internet, eBay, and all the other pillars of modern civilization.

In fact, if it weren't for those brave souls, we all might well be speaking Russian right now, eating only beet soup once a week, and living in unheated unplumbed rural communes.

Satan-worshippers indeed! They saved America, and comsymp jock McCain and Palin want to burn them at the stake. No wonder so many D&Ders switched over to Obama.

David Davenport said...

I will never forgive the hucktards for wasting their vote on a lame stand-up comedian

Thanks a lot. I voted for Huckleberry in the Tennessee primary.

A Romney-Huck ticket would have been the ticket, imho.

Yeah, Huckleberry's appeal very regional. Similar to a taste for Rudy G. or Bloomsburybaum.

Voting for one's co-religionist very paleo-con, agree?

Truth said...

"Where I come from, you earn an income by working, not by being born."

Here, here brother; we're with you!

Sincerely:

Nelson Rockefeller, Ted Kennedy @ George W. Bush.

ben tillman said...

I just bet my husband that McCain would win.

I hope he gave you odds of 6.5 to 1, because that's what a bookie would give you.

ben tillman said...

Where I come from, you earn an income by working, not by being born.

Funny, I would have guessed that you came from you parents, who obviously disagree with you. Else you would have starved shortly after your birth.

headache said...

"What no one seems to have twigged to yet is that the coming recession is going to have a severe impact in Africa."

Kinda agree. Africans are fairly adaptive when it comes to economic problems. They can live on very little. Poverty to them means something else than poverty means to us. I dunno about the urbanized Africans in former white countries such as Rhodesia or South Africa. They may ultimately also have lost their connection with nature and thus the ability to adapt easily. Blacks in the US sure seem to have, as could be witnessed during in New Orleans.

The problem with whites is that they need the modern technological setup in order to survive. What happens when you can no longer go to your office in town? What happens when the water shuts off? Or the electricity goes off? Or the sewage no longer works? Or there is no longer fresh food? No fuel? These are real scenarios in Africa. In Zim they are common. In South Africa its also starting now.

So blacks cause a lot of their own misery but can adapt fairly well to really bad situations which would have wiped out whites. On the other hand whites would never allow situations to stoop that low. I'm a little more pessimistic about Africa reducing population.

Lucius Vorenus said...

headache: The problem with whites is that they need the modern technological setup in order to survive. What happens when you can no longer go to your office in town? What happens when the water shuts off? Or the electricity goes off? Or the sewage no longer works? Or there is no longer fresh food? No fuel?

As the USA begins to disintegrate, owing to the looming demographic imperative, you will learn - no, make that EXPERIENCE - the answers to these questions.

A vote for Obama is a vote for a plague of locusts.

voodooman said...

So blacks cause a lot of their own misery but can adapt fairly well to really bad situations which would have wiped out whites. On the other hand whites would never allow situations to stoop that low. I'm a little more pessimistic about Africa reducing population.

I see what you mean, but this is much wider in scope - a Third World vs. First+Second World thing. Third World cultures are good at surviving, but not improving. Left to their own devices, they stagnate. Add to that the hypocrisy of envying the wealth of the developed world, but stubbornly resisting development themselves, and bashing "evil" America, Israel, Japan, etc.

Any outside criticism of Third World countries and their corrupt kleptocracies, or quaint cultural traditions such as arranged cousin marriage, is seen by their nattering nabobs as "racist" and "imperialist".

The minute a Third World country sees beyond its myopic little traditions, it ceases being Third World.