07 July 2008

Nonpartisan Advice for McCain

The news tells me that the Republican National Convention could prove interesting after all, as the loyal Bushies have declared their intent to fight Senator McCain's people for control of the party platform. Conventional wisdom says that a big floor fight that exposes fractures within Republican ranks can only hurt McCain. I don't know if that's true, since moderates have sometimes flourished by provoking extremists to split, as Truman did in 1948. But Truman's was a less ideological time than ours, so my advice to McCain is to give in even if he feels like fighting. Lie if you have to, Senator, but let the nuts have their way from now until November. If doing that wins you the general election, and you've grasped the brass ring, you can kick the platform out from under you.

The platform is a campaign document for the entire Republican party. It is not the personal pledge of the presidential candidate; that takes the form of the acceptance speech. George H.W. Bush was criticized for breaking his "read my lips" vow against new taxes, but that was part of his acceptance, not the platform, and in any event he got another nomination despite the betrayal. John McCain is even better positioned to break the platform if, as many believe, he intends to be a one-termer. What would stop him if, on Inauguration Day, he declares that he will govern as an American, according to his own conscience, and not as a Republican, according to the party platform? Even if they had power to do so, would Republican congressmen dare defy a Republican president? Better yet, what if McCain pursued this course, and it worked? Then what if he decided to take another term after all. Would the Republicans primary him? Would someone play the Pat Buchanan part from 1992, albeit without Buchanan's personal baggage, or the Reagan part from 1976, taking the incumbent to the brink of defeat? And what if McCain was defeated by a disgruntled GOP? That is, what if a popular President McCain was beaten in the Republican primaries for defying Republican orthodoxy and its wealthy sponsors? Well, we've all heard of how Senator Lieberman is a great friend and counselor to McCain. I bet he could counsel our theoretical McCain on how to deal with this theoretical setback, having gone through it himself and come out on top.

To sum up: I'm advising McCain to capitulate to the Bushies and placate them at the convention, and then stab them in the back if he wins the White House. Why do I indulge such a fantasy, since I don't particularly want McCain to be President? Because if things played out like I propose, and if John McCain is the self-willed maverick he's supposed to be, his breaking of the platform could crack, if not break, the American Bipolarchy. If there's a way for Senator Obama to do the same thing, I'll be glad to hear about it.

No comments: