No More Matchsticks

I can't recall a Republican senator ever winning the Presidency. I CAN recall them losing it; most recently Bob Dole in '96. And if things stay on course, John McCain will lose in 2008.


Because there are no consequences of losing. On Inauguration Day 2009 he'll have the same seats at the same banquets that he had in 2004 - and 1996. He'll have the same chambers as the day before the election (unless the Republicans miraculously win a majority).

It's all kabuki theater to the Washington insiders. With reelection percentages in the 90's, who gives a hoot about the constituents once you've punched your golden ticket?

And informed voters shake their heads, because the cynical pols are right.

Which brings me back to John McCain.

Senator McCain has a mixed legacy. No one can question his patriotism and his courage in Communist prison camps. But his legislative legacy is spotty. The McCain-Feingold bill is unconstitutional at its most charitable. He himself chose not to live within its limits this year. The unintended consequences of the 527s has been outrageous. Yet he has offered no apology for this abortion of civil liberty.

And now he purports to bear the standard for the Republican Party. But he's playing poker for matchsticks. There is no downside for losing. As we said before, he gets to attend the same balls, clink snifters with the same lobbyists, and fleece the same voters he does today.

And that's wrong. And that's wimpy. The sort of thing you expect from Sen. Present and Sen. Gaffapalooza.

So here's what John McCain should do today. Call a press conference and say the following:
"I'm John McCain. I have spent my whole life defending this country. Today I stand before you as a candidate for President of the United States. I take my candidacy very seriously. There are those who say senators have nothing to lose in presidential races, and that's why they don't get elected (unless their dad conspires with the mob to deliver Chicago).

It is true that Senators Biden, Obama, and I will all legally retain our seats should we lose in November. But that is not the American way. We have 'no skin in the game'. And that is wrong for the country I love.

To demonstrate my commitment to my ideals and my platform, I pledge today to resign my seat in the Senate if I am defeated in the election. I challenge my opponents to do the same. A contest of ideas this important should have real consequences, and the financial and political future of a few people seems a good starting point."

What do you think?

posted by Mike at 9:29 PM


Anonymous Anonymous said...


It would be interesting to see what such a 'bet the ranch' approach would yield. In addition to the direct results you describe there would be, perhaps, an interesting change in fund raising strategy. Currently some candidates build up their campaign war chest by running for an office they know they can't win, but it pumps up their dollars for the next race they know they can win. In addition, Federal election law allows them to give some of their dollars to their party or other candidates, making them the 'sugar daddy' for other candidates. Your proposal, if adopted more generally, could change that calculus.

Finally, there is the law of unintended consequences. I wonder what those might be for your proposal?

Bob G

9:01 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hi Bob,

Great comments; thank you!

Here are some of the consequences of my proposal. I think that they fall along the lines of the 'playing poker for money vs. matchsticks' line of thought, with a few twists.

Presuming this is a Washington-only prohibition, I would say that the only politicians who would run would be those who were ready to leave Washington and take their "one shot" at glory. I think that on the Democratic side this would mean that only state officials would ever run; mostly governors and the odd state atty general. On the Republican side, those folks make up most of the candidates anyway, so not as big an impact. I think the other thing that you will see is more people like Reagan, who came from private business. While it's no guarantee, I suspect more of them would come from outside the Washington bubble than from inside, and that's a good thing.


10:41 AM  

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