Dear Senator McCain and Governor Palin:
I realize that you both have advisors, speechwriters, publicists, pollsters and handlers. But how about taking some advice from a few of us out here in Real World Land? You know – those of use whose votes you are trying to get?
With six weeks until Election Day, the current meltdown of the financial markets comes at a precarious time. The way you characterize this situation has the potential to either solidify your current base and persuade independents thirsty for truth, or disappoint conservatives fed up with the “same old same old” and dissolve the lead you have so painstakingly earned in the past few weeks.
Senator McCain, you captured the public’s attention with the selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as your running mate. Not only did the Democrats underestimate the strength of conservatives’ support for Governor Palin, they were also stunned by the public’s furious reaction to Hollywood’s and the media’s smug and condescending attempts to smear Palin and her family. And Palin’s unabashedly conservative social views galvanized a previously tepid voter base on the right. All of this put Obama’s campaign on the defensive, and sent his poll ratings creeping downward, while yours saw a steady – and sometimes even dramatic – increase.
And then came Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the prospect of the $700 billion bailout. Suddenly, the John McCain who sounded like such a brave conservative three weeks ago is parroting the Left, calling for “more government intervention,” decrying “corporate greed,” and blaming Wall Street.
Within 48 hours, what has happened? A six-point slip in the polls. Why? Here’s my take on it: don’t try to out-Obama Obama. He’s got 47 years on you.
So what now? Well, how about this for a strategy instead? Why not take the same gutsy truth-telling approach to the economic issues that you have been taking on the social and domestic security issues? Tell the American public the truth: tell them that the crash-and-burn wasn’t caused by greedy financiers, but by government meddling and arm-twisting of the banks and other lenders, essentially forcing them to make bad business decisions by lending to millions of people who were poor credit risks. Tell the American public that this bad situation was made worse by allowing quasi-government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy and sell these worthless mortgages.
Senator McCain, I can fully understand your desire to be in Washington for the next few days while decisions are made about how best to handle the current crisis. So why not send Sarah Palin out on the stump for you?
Let her do what she does so beautifully: connect with the people by telling them the truth. And who better to get the American public bullish about the economy again than the self-described “pitbull with lipstick”?
If you’re not sure what we want to hear, I’m happy to help out. Here’s what I’d like to hear Sarah Palin say on your behalf in the next week or so:
“Ladies and gentlemen, Americans will vote Republican in November, because they are fed up with Democrats trying to run their lives and ruin their businesses. Democrats like Senators Obama and Biden would have you believe that the cause of the sub-prime mortgage collapse and the financial failures of institutions like Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is ‘corporate greed,’ unfettered by regulation. They’re telling you that the cure is ‘more government oversight.’
“But the truth is that it was government that caused these financial problems. It was government that insisted that banks make bad loans to people who were poor credit risks. It was government that called these bad decisions ‘fair housing,’ even though the lenders they pressured to write the mortgages would eventually lose their shirts, and the homeowners they said they wanted to help would lose their homes. It was government that insisted that quasi-governmental entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be able to buy and sell these essentially worthless securities, both driving up the demand for them, and creating a false sense of security behind them. And when financial writers from respected publications like the Wall Street Journal warned us that these decisions were potentially catastrophic mistakes, it was government calling such warning ‘alarmist.’ ‘Government’ in the form of Democrats like Charles Schumer, Chuck Rangel, Barney Frank, and Maxine Waters. The same Democrats who are now calling for ‘more government’
“The problem, folks, as John McCain and I and you all know, isn’t too little government interference in our financial markets. It’s too much. Left to their own good sense, banks and other financial institutions would have made sensible business decisions, properly secured loans, and prudent investments, as they had before. And as they will again. Senator Obama says he wants ‘change’ that will improve the lots of Americans. Well, we have a change for him: The best way to improve the prospects of all Americans is to get government out of business, to let businesses be what they should be – profitable sources of valuable goods and services, and not manipulated instruments of misguided social engineering!
“As the politicians and advisors gather in Washington this week, John McCain will bring them a message from the American people. We will make them understand that Americans will not be fooled. We will not be fleeced. And we will not be party to the Democrats’ constant efforts to demonize and undermine the best source of prosperity the world has even seen – honest American enterprise.”
There you go. True, it’s risky. It does go against the negative tune everyone else is singing. It will give the media apoplectic fits. (Isn’t that enough reason?) But if you want to truly keep your reputation as a maverick, Senator McCain; if you want to rally independents and fiscal conservatives to your side; and if you want to be the voice of calm reason and positive potential that Americans want in a President, then that’s what we need to hear. And I, for one, would love to hear Sarah Palin say it.
Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.
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