Republicans wondering what happened to cause John McCain’s election defeat got a sharp confirmation of their worst suspicions November 5 from Newsweek magazine. According to Newsweek, McCain and his chief advisors refused to deploy key arguments against Barack Obama’s candidacy.
This may be a harsh revelation for those who contributed to and volunteered for McCain’s campaign, but beneath this failure are the keys to a Republican recovery in 2010 and 2012 — and a strategy which will undermine the Democrats’ grip on black voters.
The Democratic primary contest had exposed the anti-Americanism of Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright. The revelations were timed too late to deliver victory to Hillary Clinton, but had a powerful effect against Obama in the later primaries. Unlike the Clintons, the McCain campaign put Wright and also Michelle Obama off limits. Also off limits according to Newsweek: Obama’s lack of military service, suggestions that an Obama administration will not adequately protect Americans from terrorism, arguments that Obama is soft on crime, and even a video of Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres.
Bill and Hillary Clinton got a taste of being tagged “racist” in the primaries. For McCain, was the pain of being called “racist” so great that he chose to undercut his own campaign? Or was the decision a mistaken political calculation in a little-understood but very real battle between the two parties over the black vote?
John McCain is not the only one choosing to stifle himself. Alan Greenspan, testifying about the subprime mortgage crisis before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on October 23, said: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief.” He continued, “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”
Are charges of “racism” and racially motivated “redlining” by community organizers and their backers in the Congressional Black Caucus also enough to override the profit motive and the “self-interest of lending institutions” — leading to stock market declines of 40-50% this year? Or perhaps more credit should be given to the exercise of power by Black Congressional Caucus leaders over the selection of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives and board members.
In the November 5 Los Angeles Times, Stanford University scholar and writer Shelby Steele writes that Obama’s campaign “tapped into a deep longing in American life — the longing on the part of whites to escape the stigma of racism.”
For many, that longing may have outweighed their lost life savings. For coal district voters, the desire to escape the stigma of racism — most recently attached to them by Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) — was sufficient to win their backing of a candidate pledged to bankrupt coal-fired electricity generators.
In an election driven by the collapse of the stock market, Barack Obama — who played a role in causing that collapse — was able to cruise to victory. Riding his coattails: many Congressional Democrats whose involvement in the subprime mortgage scam is far greater than Obama’s. Ousted: Republicans who presciently warned of the impending disaster, including Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and Senator John Sununu (R-NH).