- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Despite Sen. Barack Obama’s uplifting, if clever, speech yesterday, the Democratic Party presidential contest looks more like a contest of racial identity. However, Democratic partisans take at least some comfort in the growing evidence of an impending recession. (What a cheerful party they are.) The hope is for a good, deep recession that will drive the fearful American voters into the tender embrace of their presidential standard bearer — no matter how bloodied he or she may be at the end of their civil war of a primary season.

And what a season it is turning into. Hillary “Stonewall” Clinton, the Wellesley Euro-socialist of the 1960s, has turned herself into the great white hope of the pick-up truck and gun-rack voters of 2008. I half expect her campaign plane to proudly fly the Confederate flag as it takes her to the Robert E. Lee catfish-fry and bourbon night in backwoods Georgia.

Like her political inspiration, Richard Milhous Nixon, she has developed her own southern strategy of appealing to the resentments of blacks by poor, uneducated Democratic Party white folks. She just received 70 percent of the Mississippi white people’s vote, and is now reaching out to the old Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo anti-black vote in the city of brotherly love. If she loses the nomination fight, she may pull a Strom Thurmond and form a Dixiecrat third-party ticket. Perhaps she could choose Bobby Byrd, the former pride of the KKK, for her running mate.

Not to be outdone in this political mondo bizarro season, inexperienced, fresh-off-the-turnip-truck Mr. Obama is running as a racial healer after having been spiritually guided for the past two decades by his mentor and family preacher, a fervent, white-devil-hating, America-damning, September-11-cheering, HIV conspiracy eccentric. In his speech yesterday, elegant as it was, Mr. Obama seemed to be saying something to the effect of “live with it America, that is the way many people feel.” As the speech gets more fully understood, it is likely to further polarize the election cycle. It is a commentary on the sorry state of the Republican Party that one of these two oddities is heavily favored to be elected president of the United States.

Meanwhile, the Republican presumptive nominee, John “I always do it the hard way” McCain, who has honorably and correctly championed the unpopular Iraq war, decided to double down on the proud claim that, as we go into what may be the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, he doesn’t know much about economics. Nor does he talk about it much.

But here is where he may be able to steal a march on the Democrats. They not unreasonably assume that the Republican candidate will be blamed for the bad economy and will try to avoid the issue. But, rather than following his instincts to talk mainly about foreign and defense matters, Mr. McCain should intensely engage the Democrats and the public on the full policy implications of the impending financial and currency crises induced recession.

Just talking a lot about his concerns for the public’s economic needs is important. Republicans have never learned the political truth that the Democrats learned a century ago: If the public doesn’t hear a party talk about their concerns, they reasonably assume the party doesn’t care.

But in this instance Mr. McCain can do more than show he cares (although he needs to do that a lot). If the economy is going to be as bad as most experts expect, the public will not tolerate a Republican Party that refuses to propose some governmental interventions. That was the argument of Herbert Hoover’s Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon: liquidate labor, real estate, stocks, farmers — clear out the dry rot and wait for recovery. If that is all the GOP offers, they will lose in an historic landslide — and would deserve to.

There are policies that may help a lot. (For example, we must protect the housing market from being flooded with millions of foreclosed homes.) At the same time, Mr. McCain should challenge the Democrats to explain how, during a recession that will sharply reduce government tax revenues and require hundreds of billions of dollars of housing relief, they are going to pay for all the goodies they are promising. Mr. McCain should challenge the Democrats to explain under what theory raising taxes — even on the filthy rich — during a recession will help lead to recovery, rather than drive the recession deeper.

To the extent that the public is looking for a strong commander in chief, he already has those votes. Of course he should continue to make his defense and foreign policy points.

But this election will be won or lost on the economy. And Mr. McCain must make hard times his friend. On that issue, don’t yield an inch to your Democratic Party opponent, Senator, and Election Day may yet be yours.

Regretfully, the Democrats may be right to live in hope of being saved by a collapsing economy.

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