With just a little more than three weeks to go before America goes to the polls to elect the next president, Barack Obama maintains a lead in the polls. To use a Richard Nixon phrase from election night in 1960, “if the trend continues…” he will be our next president. And he will most likely be working with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.
But will the trend really continue? Can the momentum in this roller coaster race shift back to McCain? Might Obama be peaking too early?
The fact is, with all the dynamics of this historic political year – including recent economic developments - the election should really be over. The lights should be turned out. Oprah should have finished her final chorus by now.
Yet John McCain remains within striking distance, despite the fact that he is the candidate perceived as representing a very unpopular incumbency.
Why? Possibly it is because Americans are afraid, not only of what is happening on the road from Wall Street to Main Street, but of the idea of turning the reins of leadership over to an unproven neophyte.
Or maybe it has something to do with a growing reluctance to give one party the run of the place during chaotic times.
If Mr. Obama and a Democratic Congress are, in fact, elected, they will be well positioned to launch a top-down government-knows-best blitz of socio-politico activism. They would be able to reinvent America in their image – or at least try. This has only happened a couple of times in the past century: 1932 and 1964. And in those cases the government’s hegemony over all things individual grew exponentially. First, there was the New Deal; then there was the Great Society.
This is a theme John McCain should return to again and again between now and November 4th. He should ask Americans at every turn: “What do you think is better for the nation during these extraordinarily difficult days – one party in control – or a two-party system working in the best interests of the people?”
Harry Truman campaigned, quite effectively in fact, in 1948 against the “do-nothing” 80th Congress. He seldom even mentioned the name of his opponent (the infamous Mr. Dewey) – not even calling him, “that one” – “the one” – or “that man.” But he did not mince words when it came to blasting the Republican Congress.
Harry was the original comeback kid.