Exhibit 14.1

Election Post-Mortem

Imagine my surprise when I went to watch Fox's new hit drama Fringe and instead found myself looking at Shepard Smith. Hope for change: Fulfilled. Hope for answers about a series of mysterious events known only as "The Pattern": Dashed.

I'll have more to say about Obama later, but I wanted to go into some of the mechanics of this election a bit on the Republican side. My question at the moment: Did McCain ever have a chance? Certainly his surrogates had been playing up the 'nobody expected us to even be competitive in this environment' angle in the last week, but since they weren't competitive at all, it does beg the question. My guess: No. At least not with the flawless campaign Obama ran. In the end, McCain probably would have needed a major gaffe to derail the electorate's clear preference for a Dem, but I do think he could have taken steps to make such a gaffe more likely or at least put Obama on the defensive. Here's what I would have suggested to McCain:

Spend every waking moment during the extended Democratic primary shoring up your conservative base in the quietest way possible. Do whatever it takes to convince the Colorado Springs crowd that you're one of them even if you aren't going to be talking about their issues. Get a Jesus tattoo if you have to. Make it count because...you're never going to talk about their issues. Put on a turtleneck to cover up the Jesus tattoo and become the McCain of 2000 just as Obama is seizing the nomination. Immediately and publicly renounce Bush while announcing a radical reform agenda and make Obama respond, especially on issues like immigration and energy independence. Name Lieberman as your running mate a week or so before the Democratic Convention to make that the topic of conversation and give conservatives time to get over it before Minneapolis. Take the aggressive move of naming some people who would be in your cabinet and use those names to shore up the base (Palin as Secretary of Energy?). Continue to hammer the agenda and make it even more radical. Promise a fundamental rewriting of the tax code, stuff like that. Hope the Obama campaign takes the bait and attacks the agenda as impossible then wait until just before the debates to announce you'll only serve one term and will govern by doing the right thing rather than the electable thing. Frame this as part of the overall anti-Obama argument based on experience and ambition. Leave all other negative attacks alone. Leave the press alone. Hope for a gaffe.

To me that seems like a strategy that, while perhaps no more likely to win, at least allows McCain to lose not only with his legacy intact but with a clear impact on the future of his party. In any case, there was a way for McCain to be a "maverick" not with his V.P. pick and not as a hollow label, but as a man leading sweeping, bipartisan reform of government. That's an image that plays across demographics (which McCain's campaign was far too obsessed with) and could have created excitement to match Obama's if not in depth than at least in scope.

I really think that the Republicans could have learned a thing or two from Ron Paul in this election (as funny as it sounds) and tried to manufacture their own grassroots movement around reforming Washington, libertarian social policies, and populist economics. Finding a coherent narrative somewhere around the bi-partisan ticket, the one-term promise, and McCain's experience as a reformer, shouldn't have been too hard. But by taking the low road with the silly personal attacks, an irresponsible VP pick, endless fights with the press, and a "Joe the Plumber" economic plan, McCain not only doomed himself but also his party. Instead, the fundamental transformation that is going to have to take place in order for the Republican party to stay competitive in national elections gets put off another four years. This country isn't getting any whiter, boys, maybe it's time to start getting real on immigration. Or, you know, find a set of policies that in any way appeals to post-Vietnam generations. I think these issues go will beyond skin color, so if conservatives are hoping Bobby Jindal is going to be their Obama in 2012, I think they're in for disappointment but I've been wrong before.

In any case, we should all remember that John McCain loves his country deeply and while he ran a bad campaign, he is a good man that many on the left, including myself, admired as a politician until recently and will continue to admire as an American hero. He was on the wrong side of history last night but that doesn't do anything to diminish his sacrifice. Personally, I hope and expect that he will be a key player in righting this country now that he's free from capitulating to his, and his party's, worst instincts.

And the final nail in the Republican's coffin came this morning. Here's a very gracious Bush on Obama's victory.

Except for when he oddly veers into talking about protecting America, I thought this was a compelling, genuine speech from a man who doesn't seem to understand why people don't like him anymore but who, if nothing else, knows history when he sees it.

No comments: