The Hartford Courant reports that Jean Diamond challenged McCain at a town hall meeting on the commitment of Republicans to the principles of fiscal conservatism.
I'm not getting anything I really need and my grandchildren are getting saddled with $9 trillion in debt," said Diamond, a Keene retiree. "Why should I vote Republican?"
McCain gave a lame, snide answer:
Because, McCain replied, Democrats have also voted to increase federal spending. "Maybe," the Arizona Republican suggested, "you should vote for the vegetarians."
Diamond was not amused:
"Republicans are in charge of three Houses," she snapped back. "You have no excuse."
And then McCain overtly expressed regrets that he didn't resort to Bush-style town hall tactics:
"I knew we should have cut this thing off."
I point this out for a variety of reasons. The primary implication of this exchange, of course--as well as the rest of the Courant article, which I encourage you to read--is that McCain will certainly have a hard time maintaining his "maverick" image while overtly kowtowing to the "tax cuts, guns, and rich butterfat" policies of the "brand W" base.
But the second implication--and one I find far more compelling beyond the immediate realities of McCain's 2008 bid--is that in this, I find a response to the question of how we get people to vote Democratic:
YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE.
That one phrase has a lot of power. They've been in charge of the Senate, the House and the Presidency combined for 6 YEARS. Now, they even control the judiciary. But they have accomplished nothing for America. "Brand W" has been ready, willing, and unfortunately, very able to blame its failures on Democrats. Their failed war policy is the product of our much-belated dissent. Their failed economic policies are the product of our refusal to submit to their plutocratic reform plans. Their failed security policy is a result of our opposition to the PATRIOT Act. Their inability to pass sensible immigration reform is the fault of one man named Harry Reid. Their inability to deal with energy is the fault of our caribou-loving, America-hating wacko environmentalists who oppose ANWR drilling.
No matter where you go or what policy you're looking at, Republicans have successfully blamed the Democrats for blocking the implementation of what would otherwise, in their view, have been successful policies. And it has worked because they have said so, and we have not stopped them.
We don't even spend our time talking about the issues any more. We talk about scandals. We talk about Plame. Niger. Delay. NSA wiretapping. Iraq intelligence. Every single other scandal that has come down the pipe that I hope you'll forgive me for not mentioning.
That's all well and good. That's fine. The public deserves to know. We need to have investigations of these issues. But these issues alone won't convince the electorate of the need for a groundswell revolution that puts Democrats into power. Instead, what we've actually seen is a scandal fatigue that saps the electorate of its enthusiasm for the political process at large.
These scandals won't carry us. But I think that this message--YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE FOR VOTING REPUBLICAN--actually has a shot.
Imagine a unified message from our Democratic candidates and leaders:
They have controlled the executive and legislative branches for 6 years straight, and they have accomplished nothing for America. Nothing on education. Nothing on immigration. Nothing on energy policy. Nothing on healthcare. Nothing on security. Nothing on fiscal responsibility. Terrorism has increased, not decreased. Nuclear proliferation has increased at a rapid rate. The debt is at $9 trillion dollars. You can't even contemplate that amount of money. and all of it has happened under a Republican President, with Republican majorities in both houses. The Republicans have no excuse. And if you care about these issues, you have no excuse for voting Republican. They haven't led on these issues, but we will, and here's how:
(insert DNC security strategy here)
Imagine if our leaders came out and said that. We all know that if you care about sensible immigration reform that protects children, if you care about healthcare costs, if you care about terrorism, if you care about proliferation, if you care about our national debt, if you care about our economy--IF YOU CARE ABOUT OUR COUNTRY AT LARGE--you already know that there is no excuse to vote Republican.
So why doesn't the rest of the country? I don't know. Why don't you all go tell them? And tell them this way. Because I think it'll work.
[Cross-posted at Daily Kos]