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September 13, 2008

The Real War Will Be In Washington After the Election (Kat-Mo)

Not to put a damper on all the fun, but the real war is yet to come. If McCain/Palin win this election, they will have won it on a reform platform. The power to do that will be in the power of the electorate. If McCain blows Obama out of the water, he will have the public behind him and a bully pulpit. Palin will also have a bully pulpit.

But, the real power to sink or float this reform is in congress.

McCain has essentially declared war on congress in the clearest terms possible. In his acceptance speech and his stump speeches he has repeatedly said that he will end earmarks and, to quote, he "will make them famous."

The concern for the McCain presidency and a potential Palin presidency in 2012 must be whether McCain's "no earmarks" will become a George H. W. Bush "read my lips" moment.


For any president to do business or congressional activity to take place it often requires compromise. Compromise that is the backbone of business in Washington, D.C. It is also the backbone of power for any and all congress members when it comes time to win votes and support back in the home state. Not to mention those infamous donations from businesses and other interested members who are known to give a little to get a lot from the never ending spoils of the pork barrel.

The Republicans in congress cannot be any happier about this potential war cry than the Democrats. He is threatening their power base as sure as he is threatening the Democrats.

The real problem will be the first time these earmarks are added to a bill that McCain really needs passed. Such as supplemental funds for the war effort. If congress holds to its current program, it typically holds off until the very last to pass these supplementals, holding the president and the war hostage to their interests.

When it counts, who will prevail? If the government shuts down or the war efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan are in danger, will McCain be forced to withdrawal his objections and sign in order to continue? Will he have to compromise with at least a few earmarks going through in order to continue the business of government?

Another issue is that the Republican party in congress lacks serious discipline. Not since Newt Gingrich has the Republican party had a strong enough member to exert control over the Republican party or advocate a singular position. Even that was short lived in the feeding frenzy at the trough after the Republicans gained power.

McCain may see Palin as the whip while he is the compromiser who will "reach across the aisle". How effective will Palin be in this position? She will have to make strong alliances with some of the junior members of congress who have little to lose since they do not sit on any of the big committees or have large pots of pork barrel money at their disposal.

And, the bully pulpit of the press secretary and various spokesmen. The press secretary will have to be a strong and capable advocate of these positions as well. There can be no press secretaries as under the Bush administration.

Further, Republicans in congress may not view McCain's probable one term in office as a threat. If they sink his reforms while paying lip service, they can hold their own, keep their state base and their monetary hand outs. The only damage will be to McCain, a one termer, and Palin, a maybe for the next election.

It is easy to understand that this is a plausible scenario. Where are the usual congress representatives and senators that stump together for the presidency? There are certainly calls for Palin to stump for their elections, but how much will also be the question. Aside from outsiders like Gingrich, et al, who is spreading the reform message? Certainly, in local elections, few, if any, have picked up the reform message in their election advertisements or stump speeches. At least, not here in Missouri.

What the Republicans in congress will be worried about is holding on to their seats. After McCain is elected, national attention will slowly fade away and congress, Democrats and Republicans, will likely be betting on the usual attention that the public pays to congressional business of passing bills: slim to none. It will totally be in McCain's side of the court to press the issue.

My predictions are simple. If Republicans lose more seats and become a total minority in congress without enough seats to make a 2/3 vote impossible without them, they will become complete insurgents in McCain's camp for reform. They will have nothing to lose and will be fighting for the next election. It will also mean that McCain will be stuck with a Democrat congress where he will get nothing done without compromise. Nothing.

Thus, the Republicans in congress will be secure in the reform camp, but McCain will be in danger of having to compromise his platform (thus, endangering a future Palin or other Republican administration).

If the Republicans gain the edge to at least hold out against a 2/3 majority, they may join the Democrats in a stealth war against McCain in order to get bills that they support passed. They will talk a good talk and sell McCain down the river. They will be focused on how to maintain their edge in congress by bringing the bacon home, not on the next presidential election.

There is very little likelihood of the Republicans gaining a majority so there is little to imagine in what they would do in congress or if McCain would be willing to trash his own platform. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

For McCain and Palin, their only chance to win the major battles in this war will be to go over the heads of Congress and talk directly to the people. They will have to run a completely populist administration that can excite the electorate to become more involved than it has been historically.

This, indeed, may be exactly why McCain has picked Palin, sometimes referred to as a "pragmatic populist." Her ratings in Alaska bespeak her ability to use the populist bully pulpit effectively. In many ways though, they will have to run the president's bully pulpit so effectively that it will make notables like Reagan, FDR and Teddy Roosevelt look like novices.

To that end, from November 4 until January 20, if reform is really McCain's end state for his administration, he will have to find and encourage many surrogates to join in the fight and stay on the talk show circuit to keep the masses interested. Then there is Thanks Giving, Christmas and New Years when the public interest in government generally fades away.

If it was only politically expedient, then McCain may pull back his surrogates and let the issue fade away, but his opponents will beat him with it regardless and paint Palin a failure the next election.

The first fight, though, is the national election. After that, the real war begins.

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posted by xgenghisx at 07:27 PM

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