Last week was one political roller coaster ride after another. McCain shook up the nation by helping to force communications between the two parties on the economy. Like a policeman stepping into the middle of a domestic squabble, he risked the possibility that he could be attacked by both sides. As the week began, public opinion was drifting back toward the Democratic mantra - a John McCain presidency is the same as a George Bush third term. I am convinced that at gut level, McCain intuitively sensed that he had better shake things up or the race was over.
The financial crisis gave McCain an opportunity to show the nation his heart, his values, and his courage. As a result he proved himself to be a true maverick in three distinct ways - he bucked the power structure of both parties, he threatened not to debate with Obama at all, and he refused to take credit for the negotiations in the debate.
Several of McCain’s detractors have portrayed him as erratic, desperate, or just mean-spirited. These critics want him to just fade away quietly. They cannot understand the “by any means necessary” spirit this 72-year old possesses. As I have already alluded, Senator McCain realizes that if he is seen as a self-serving, traditional “Bush” Republican, he will not only lose the White House, but an entire generation of middle aged and younger voters will see the “conservative revolution” as a failed ideology.
No other Republican on the political scene today could have maintained this close a contest with the Obama machine. Democrats have cast this election as being about more than the readiness of their candidate. They say that it is a referendum of the conservative approach to government. Time will not permit me to flesh this argument out in detail. It is sufficient to say, that the anti-conservative rhetoric of Obama and Biden is like throwing red meat to ravenous liberals and those from the far left. In addition, Senator Obama’s money and the nation’s disgust with the current administration gives the Democrats a distinct advantage. Now that Senator McCain has had the epiphany that he has to let the nation see what makes him tick, he has to make up the script as he goes.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.