John McCain is virtually guaranteed to win. But is he guaranteed to make a lasting and significant contribution to the conservative cause? The good news: John McCain has it in the bag. The latest national polls have McCain up by ten points over Obama. The worst news for Obama: the Palin pick eliminated the gender gap that gave Bill Clinton two victories and Al Gore a slight edge in the popular vote. The only chance that Obama has is A) a major McCain gaffe or B) to beat McCain in the debates. Don't hold your breath on either. A Naval Academy grad, former prisoner of war, congressman or senator since 1982, and national figure since 2000 including two presidential runs ... guys like that don't underperform in debates or make huge gaffes. After all, if we were believing the media line, the "unstable" and "ill - tempered" McCain should have had five or six temper tantrums and profane outbursts by now, right? You know, the sort that Bill Clinton used to have all the time but were always covered up by the press (that is, until the Hillary Clinton campaign)? I have to admit, I thought that the Palin pick was horrible and would backfire. Turns out that it was easily the political maneuver of the decade and one that will be talked about, discussed, analyzed, etc. for years.
The challenge: while Republicans will be partying on November 5, what will the mood be on January 21? For starters, the issues and tactics that McCain used to create his "maverick independent" image, will that go away? Will McCain still advocate amnesty for illegal immigrants? Campaign finance reform? An accommodationist stance towards Democrats on federal judges?
And how will McCain handle what will likely be a Democratic Congress? Will he propose a bold conservative agenda? Will he simply play defense? Or will he be the great compromiser?
What area to you wish for McCain to focus on, other than of course the war and national security/foreign policy/defense in general? Major tax cuts? Major spending reductions? Deficit reduction? Deregulation? Social issues? Or would you rather see McCain shoot for a major reduction in the size and scope of government? If it is the latter, which major government program or agency do you think that a McCain could eliminate if he were to invest his political capital towards it? I say this because I think that it has been demonstrated that while cutting taxes has been shown to stimulate the economy, it does not appear to result in either a reduction in the size and scope of government or for that matter of spending. The government is actually more of a colossus than it was in 1980, and this is despite generally having Republican presidents and Congreses since then.
And what role would McCain play in this? Would it be to introduce conservative legislation that the large coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans - a coalition that not long ago included McCain I think we should point out - or would McCain's best role would be to use the bully pulpit to make the case for reducing government to create a climate where the Republicans in Congress that are actually serious about that sort of thing (starting with Tom Coburn) could operate?
I want to say that what has to be done is that Republicans should stop calling for "smaller government", "limited government", "less government", etc., terms which mean different things to different people (one of the reasons why they are so popular). Even if you limit it to cutting spending and eliminating programs, it seems that everyone wants smaller government FOR THE OTHER GUY. THE OTHER GUY is always the welfare nanny state leech bleeding the treasury dry and needs to learn how to be self - sufficient, self - reliant, and stand on his own two feet. But MY GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS, on the other hand, are investments in this country's future, and what makes this country great! Sadly, that is the attitude that most people have, and that is why nibbling away at the margins on things like welfare reform, earmarks, pork/special projects are very popular, but going after, say, the New Deal programs much less so. Sure, partially privatizing Social Security polls well. But ELIMINATING Social Security? MediCare? And a bunch of other programs that benefit middle class Americans? To any politician that proposes it, I say good luck in the private sector, pal!
That is, unless the president is able to go out and let people know that the only way that the government is going to get smaller, the only way to make the tax bill lower and the regulations go away, is to convince working, middle, and upper class Americans that small government means them! Perhaps McCain or Palin could, in a speech and publicity campaign (especially TV ads), demonstrate how much the average American receives in government services today as compared to much the average American received in government services in 1900, and then issue reports where the average American is broken down into geographical and demographic information. The reason for doing this: again, most people honestly believe that we can balance the budget on the other guy's back! The only way the smaller government agenda is going to be achieved is to inform the public that VIRTUALLY EVERYONE, not just "those people", receives unnecessary government services and exploits unneeded government programs, and to convince this VIRTUALLY EVERYONE that it is in the common interest for them to expect, desire, and receive a lot less of it.
Our government did not grow to its mammoth size by accommodating public employee unions, university Marxists, and welfare cheats. It did so - and continues to do so - because the average citizen not only desires them but demands them. The only way to turn back this growth is to change the expectations of the average citizen with the message that small government starts with you personally. The message has to be that Americans need to quit expecting everyone else to make sacrifices that they believe to be unnecessary for themselves.
Will McCain - Palin take that message to the American people? Do you want them to take that message to the American people? If the answer to either is no, then apparently conservatives are willing to accept McCain on the basis that his universal healthcare bill will be slightly more tolerable than Obama's (which if you recall was the logic that got us George W. Bush's prescription drug bill).
I wonder if the conservative grassroots should begin the process of coalescing around a MAJOR government agency or program that it will demand for McCain to target for elimination and put up a prizefight battle to get accomplished. If that process is started now - and since McCain will win there is no reason why it cannot or should not - then on January 20th the conservatives who put McCain in office will be able to say "Congratulations Mr. President, enjoy your celebration tonight, but here's your agenda for tomorrow."