Why did John McCain lose?
Let’s start with those “headwinds” into which he was flying.
The president of the United States, the leader of his party, was at Nixon-Carter levels of approval, 25 percent, going into Election Day.
Sixty-two percent of the nation thought the economy was the No. 1 issue, and 93 percent thought the economy was bad. Two-thirds of the nation thought the war McCain championed was a mistake, and 80 percent to 90 percent thought the country was on the wrong course.
As a political athlete, measured by charisma and communications skills, McCain is not even in the same league with Barack Obama. He was outspent by vast sums, and his political organization was far inferior.
It is a wonder McCain was even competitive, dealt such a hand.
Yet, by Sept. 10, McCain, thanks to Sarah Palin, whose selection had proven a sensation, had come from eight points behind to take the lead, and Joe Biden was wailing that maybe Hillary would have been a better choice for Obama.
Then came the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the bailout of AIG, McCain’s assertion that the economy was fundamentally sound, and his panicked return to Washington to assist Bush and Hank Paulson push through a wildly unpopular bank bailout — using 700 billion in tax dollars to buy up rubbish paper the idiot bankers had put on their books.
The Establishment’s Man had come to save the Establishment.
Suddenly, it was McCain who was down 10 points, as the feline and feral press went on a wilding attack on Sister Sarah. He never recovered, though the McCain-Palin final push left egg on the faces of pollsters who were predicting a double-digit triumph for Obama.
Perhaps no Republican, in these circumstances, could have won, especially with that month-long bloodletting on Wall Street that wiped out $4 trillion to $5 trillion in stock and bond value, ravaging IRAs and 401Ks, portfolios and pensions alike.
Yet, McCain might still have won had he not, like his three fellow establishment Republicans Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, been inhibited by the Mainstream Media and his own Beltway beliefs.
Consider. In California, where a liberal judiciary had ordered the state to recognize homosexual marriages, voters, by 52 to 48, slapped the judges across the face and ordered the ban reimposed and placed in the California constitution. Arizona and Florida also voted to outlaw gay marriage, by landslides.
The New York Times deplored the “ugly outcome” of these three referenda and said voters were “enshrining bigotry,” thus calling the majority of Californians, Arizonans and Floridians bigots and their Bible-rooted Christian beliefs nothing but bigotry.
Good to know what they think of us. Yet, McCain, who might have been out front on these moral and cultural issues, paid only lip service — and lost Florida, and California by a landslide.
In Missouri, where McCain eked out a victory, a proposal to make English the official state language carried six to one. In Nebraska, a proposal to ban affirmative action carried 58 to 42, but lost in a 50-50 tie in Colorado.
Parental notification won 48 percent support in California, a far higher share of the vote than McCain got, while a measure to outlaw abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother got 45 percent in South Dakota. Had McCain made an issue of Obama’s support for a Freedom of Choice Act that would eliminate all state restrictions on abortion, he could have forced Obama to defend what yet remains a radical and extreme view in America.
While Barack was locking up black America, McCain failed to hold onto Bush’s share of the white working class, though Obama had the most liberal voting record in the Senate and long associations with the likes of Jeremiah Wright and ’60s bomber William Ayers.
Perhaps fearful his “good guy” reputation with his old buddies in his media “base” would be imperiled, McCain ruled Wright off limits and seemed hesitant even to go after the Ayers connections. Lee Atwater would not have been so ambivalent. Leo Durocher put it succinctly: “Nice guys finish last.”
Ultimately, however, the Beltway Republicans are losing Middle America because they are ideologically incapable of addressing two great concerns: economic insecurity and the perception that we are losing the America that we grew up in.
Economic insecurity is traceable to NAFTA-GATT globalization, under which it makes economic sense for U.S. companies to close factories here, build plants in China and export back to the United States. Manufacturing now accounts for less than 10 percent of all U.S. jobs.
Social insecurity is traceable to mass immigration, legal and illegal, which has brought in scores of millions who are altering the character of communities and competing with U.S. workers by offering their services for far less pay.
These are the twin causes of death of the Reagan coalition, and as long as the Republican Party is hooked on K Street cash, it will not address either, and thus pass, blissfully addicted, from this earth.