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Changing The Subject

What McCain Has To Do After the DNC Convention

Imagine it’s August 29. The DNC convention has ended and Obama leads by 20 points in the polls. He gave a blockbuster of a speech at Invesco Field that even Republicans will applaud. The MSM’s legs will still be tingling even two days later. At the convention Obama will of course have proposed zillions of dollars in new spending as well as raise everyone’s taxes, not to mention repeat the rest of the DNC platform, under the guise of “hope and change”. The world will be in awe at the grandeur and majesty that is Obama the Messiah.

Now it’s about time for the RNC convention to start. There will be lots and lots of speakers who will devote their time and energy to justifiably bashing Obama’s plans. They will cost too much, they won’t work, they represent big government imposing on everyone, etc. All of that is true. But, ultimately, that only plays into Obama’s hand. It lets Obama define Republicans the way he has defined them all along, i.e., opposed to the hopeful change he will usher in. And if Obama gets elected, that is precisely how he will govern – he is the agent of hope, light, salvation and prosperity (when all he really proposes is more standard DNC fare), and if only the Republican gentiles could see the truth then all would be well with the world!

Let the Senators and Governors stand up there and bash Obama. But you, McCain, can’t and shouldn’t do that. Well, maybe just a little. But that shouldn’t be the theme of your acceptance speech. You have to change the subject. You have to be the maverick you always have been. You have to propose something bold, new, exciting, unexpected, something that is in keeping with the spirit of “change” that this election represents.

And it has to be something tangible. It can’t be something lame like “cut the deficit in half by 10 years” – everybody knows that these sorts of timetables are never followed and by expanding the deadline to 10 years it’s really just a copout. It can’t be something like “reduce the size of government” – to be honest, not many people actually believe Republicans stand for that anymore. It can’t be something like “victory in Iraq” – while of course Iraq should be a key aspect of your speech, WE ALL KNOW you stand for victory so it’s not particularly novel. It has to be something within your grasp – either something you’ll be able to do on your own over the objections of a hostile Congress, or something for which you’ll have the backing of the American people to pressure Congress into adopting, a la Ronald Reagan. And, to be blunt, it can’t be anything involving immigration. You’ve lost pretty much all of your moral authority on this subject.

Furthermore – and here’s the really important part – it can’t be something that will be easily upstaged by Obama later on, so whatever it is, it has to be something that will force Obama to choose between his hope-and-change rhetoric and his toe-the-party-line reality.

So, here are a few of my suggestions.

  1. Nationwide school vouchers. Everywhere school vouchers have been tried they’ve been a success – either with the vouchers themselves or by forcing sclerotic public school administrations into innovating, by doing things like create charter schools or magnet schools. You can go one step further and propose that all that NCLB money will go to individual families to choose among public schools in their area, instead of sending it to the schools themselves. The Democrats are absolutely beholden to teachers’ unions and they will demand that Obama oppose this vigorously and ruthlessly defend the status quo. Public education is absolutely one area in which change is called for and by proposing something revolutionary in this field you will force Obama to choose between actual change or just lip-service change.

  2. Wage subsidies. Replace the minimum wage and the entire welfare state apparatus with a system of wage subsidies designed to reward hard work. It might work something like this: Firms that hire low-wage or entry-level workers would receive a subsidy, making up the difference between the wage that the firm pays and some fixed amount, say $8/hr. That’s it. No more paying people to watch Oprah. No more paying people depending on how many kids they have. No more gross distortions of the labor market by forcing firms to be the handmaidens of government welfare policy in the form of a minimum wage. This idea is already out there and it’s already being implemented in places like Colorado (swing state, anyone?). Yes there is more than a tinge of socialism in this proposal. But it is new and bold in the sense of replacing the entire welfare state apparatus with one system that is purposefully designed to reward work. And this is also one area in which Republicans still have some credibility, seen as architects of the previous welfare reform effort in the 90’s. The left is beholden to the minimum wage because it, along with Social Security, represent the two “great triumphs” of their New Deal legacy – asking them to part with it strikes at the core of their very identity. The left WILL NOT countenance any change in this area of the status quo and Obama, the hope-and-changer, will have to decide if he will just attack McCain on a proposal like this (thereby exposing his hollowness) or flip-flop and attempt to accommodate it (thereby pissing off his base).

Those are two of my ideas. What are yours?

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