During the final week of campaigning and especially yesterday, delivering an eloquent concession speech, we found ourselves wondering: where did McCain go wrong? This is a guy with experience, grit, someone who could, in these difficult times, prove a determined and capable leader. So, what happened?
The beginning of the end for McCain could be traced to that Friday in late August when he announced his running mate. With that irresponsible choice, McCain lost the support of the Republican intellectual. One by one the ideologues defected. In the Washington Post, George Will accused McCain of “faux conservatism” and characterized his choice of Sarah Palin as “careless.” David Brooks, the only real conservative columnist at the New York Times, claimed that in choosing Palin, McCain was “throw[ing] away standards of experience and prudence” – exactly the platform of his campaign. All the other conservative top dogs seemed to agree: Charles Krauthammer, the National Review‘s Kathleen Parker, even David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, all criticized McCain on this point.
Then came the parade of Joes: this subservience to the “average American,” even though Rocky Mountain Jew finds the term small minded and patronizing. Since when has being intellectual become un-American? Not only should smarts be celebrated, but to run a successful political party, a well-formulated, intelligent ideology is necessary.
But the truth is, while the Palin choice did alienate many conservative thinkers and more progressive Republicans, it was the tanking economy that signaled the end for McCain. And not just because of that infamous soundbite he has now lived to regret: “the fundamentals of the economy are strong.”
There’s a cliche stating that people vote with their pocketbooks. And this year, with almost everyone already feeling the hit, or at the very least foreshadowing it, change is what voters are looking for. Being in such a dismal economic situation we just want something better, something fresh, something new. And that’s what Obama represents. Now we just have to hope he’s up to the challenges.