"Do you think that McCain can win?" That was the question put to me this weekend by a friend.
"Yes," I said.
"Really?!? Do you think that people are stupid enough to vote to continue the same awful government, the same damn policies that have brought them to this point 8 years later?"
Perhaps not an exact quote, but pretty close. I've given it some thought since I said that McQueeg could win and I've decided that it wasn't really the correct answer. The real answer is that Obama could lose.
Keep in mind, that's not the result that I want. I have my problems with the Democratic party (particularly not being progressive or democratic enough), but these past 8 years make the Reagan government look like a group of nice, competent managers. I've excoriated the Bush government on several occasions. McQueeg has turned his back on the promise that he showed in 2000 and become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the continued failed policies of his buddy, Bush. If we return the White House to someone of this caliber, then we'll plunge the country into even greater pain than it's going to have to face with Obama in charge.
The problem is that Democrats have a history of screwing up elections. Take Gore in 2000. Challenged by Nader on the left, Gore attempted to distance himself from both Clinton and his progressive roots. He was the VP in one of the more economically successful governments of the latter 20th century and he should have been a shoe-in given his opponent. But, he mucked it up by not acknowledging his mentor and not working harder to appease progressives. He only began to come back when he became more populist - a theme that Democrats are loath to heed.
Dukakis is another example. In the summer of 1987, he held all of the cards. Then VP Bush was a member of a government that was definitely in decline. Iran-Contra, psychics in the White House, a president who admitted to sleeping through meetings were all part of the headlines that were dragging the government's approval ratings into the ground. Dukakis was by one poll 15 points ahead of Bush and it seemed like he was ready to take the White House with a Democratic Congress behind him. Then the debates came - a lackluster performance - followed by silly pictures in tanks and, again, a final surge towards populism that, while it gained momentum, came too late to have any real effect on the outcome.
Could Obama's team make the same mistake? Sure they can...especially now that he's taking on so many of Hillary's advisors. We saw how well they managed that campaign, not to mention Gore's. They could certainly screw up Obama's chances as well. I think the candidate is smarter than that, but I've been fooled before, so I wait and see and worry.
McQueeg cannot win this race. He has a history of flip flops on a number of issues. He sold out his integrity when he (literally and figuratively) embraced Bush. Ross Perot has called him an "opportunist" and he can be proven to be so in a number of ways. His economic policies are a disaster. His foreign policy is 30 years old and not applicable to today's world. He is ill tempered, dictatorial, and somewhat megomaniacal. McQueeg 2008 is probably the weakest candidate that the Republican party has put forth since Gerald Ford in 1976. Even so, he may find himself in the White House given the Democrats ability to shoot themselves in the foot.
There's another thing that troubles me, that might portend a McQueeg White House. I brought this up to my friend this weekend. It's that little voice in my head that reminds me that Americans love a divided government. My country doesn't like to hand the reigns of power over to any one party. They prefer a division of government so that it can at least pretend to have some system of cheques and balances. Reagan and Bush worked with a Democratic Congress. Clinton got his Congress switched to Republicans. The current administration lost it's Republican stronghold in Congress (though one can argue that there is little difference). By all appearances the next election is going to be a landslide in favor of the Democrats in Congress. Will Americans then vote for a Democrat in the Whiite House? If so, I wouldn't be sitting too smugly if I were Reid and Pelosi as the following election is likely to become a windfall for Republicans. It will be a delicate balance for the Democratic leaders in Congress if Obama wins. They'll naturally want to deliver some of his policies, but they'll also have to show enough independence in order to remain electable themselves.
The next government faces some huge challenges. The current crooks have screwed things up so bad that it's going to take years to properly right the ship. It's a daunting task. The economy needs attention (and, perhaps, a recession which is never good for a sitting government). The department of Fatherland Security needs an overhaul and the Pentagon needs to be reigned in (which I suspect the Democrats won't be quick to do). A proper accounting of war costs needs to be done and the troops in Iraq need to come home for the most part while some will be re-deployed in Afghanistan (not my choice, but that's the reality of it). Health care costs need to be reigned in and neither party has a good plan to deal with that, but it's going to run our government spending through the universe if it's not addressed. We need to win back the trust of much of the world in foreign policy and learn how to become a team player/leader and not just a saber rattling bully/fool. I fear that the task is likely to be so large and unwieldy that it will bring down the next president regardless of who occupies the office. Still, I trust Obama to handle it far better than McQueeg. The question is, after one party rule that screwed us up so badly and after any potential gaffes by the Obama camp, will the American public agree with me?
Wait, see, worry.