Debra J. Saunders

In the end, American voters serve as the great equalizer. When one party goes too far, voters snap the leash, as they did on Tuesday.

I still maintain that John McCain was the better presidential candidate, but I can't blame swing voters for rejecting a party that had lost touch with the hopes and dreams of ordinary Americans, and instead deciding to take a chance on the forward-looking Barack Obama. Thus history is made.

And the stale GOP leadership deserves to be history. Take Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who was convicted on seven felony violations of federal ethics laws in a trial that paraded before the world a man utterly corrupted by power, and -- worse -- so arrogant that he believed he could convince a jury that a $2,700 Brookstone massage chair that sat in his home for seven years was a loan, and that he was clueless that $250,000 in home improvements were done on someone else's dime.

Then there's Sen. Larry Craig, R-Men's Room, who reneged on his pledge to resign from office after he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a bathroom stall. The Republican Party suffers from a true cancer of careerism when disgraced lawmakers cling to their seats, uncaring as to how they stain their institutions.

Too many GOP leaders think it's all about them, not the country they serve. Take House GOP leader John Boehner, who claimed that a highly partisan speech delivered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the first failed vote for a $700 billion bailout caused some GOP members, who would have voted for the bill, "to go south."

Yes, Pelosi screwed up, too. And I blame both parties for that vote. But I also know which party had the most to lose -- and which nominee never recovered in the polls after the first bailout vote failed. At a time when Republicans should have been fighting against excessive spending, they turned into enablers of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to lard the bailout measure with an extra $110 billion in goodies.

The sad part is, McCain was different, better than the rest. He has fought earmark spending throughout his Senate career. He opposed the Bush prescription-drug plan, the pork-heavy farm bill and the special-interest-bonanza energy bill. In the end, however, voters came to associate McCain with the worst of the GOP.

And McCain helped. When McCampaign honed in on Obama's association with Bill Ayers, an education professor who helped found the terrorist Weather Underground in the 1960s, the gambit backfired with swing voters because McCain seemed stuck in a bygone era.

Debra J. Saunders

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