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What to do, what to do

Your Humble Blogger hasn’t been blogging much about the presidential campaign lately. I have been following the news, believe me. I just don’t have much to say about it. I remain moderately confident that Barack Obama will win the election, although I suspect it will be fairly close. I remain amazed at how lousy a candidate John McCain is, but don’t think that will matter very much. I remain concerned more about the congressional elections than the White House, and very happy about what’s going on there, particularly how well Sen. Obama’s campaign seems to be integrating with local campaigns.

I suppose the thing I find most interesting, from a rhetorical standpoint, is the decision to hold Sen. Obama’s acceptance speech outside the convention hall. Really, it’s a terrific thing. I am fond of the FDR precedent of speaking directly to the convention, but now that it has been the common practice for a generation, it has lost its power. It’s far more powerful, as a story, to walk out of the smoke-filled room and speak to the rank and file directly. And, of course, with fifty thousand or so people in Mile High Stadium, all of whom are eager to provide him with great television, I suspect the moment will be a triumph.

John McCain can’t do the same thing, of course, partially because it would look bad to copy the innovation (yes, I know, not really an innovation) of the Democratic Nominee, and partially because he is not good at big speeches in front of big crowds, and even with 50,000 Republicans rooting for him, it would be too likely to fail. Also, while both candidates have reputations as being independent from the Party Line, John McCain’s is (a) slightly more grounded in actual hostility between him and much of the Party, and (2) in the public mind, more based on his maverick rejection of the Party Line than on an outreach across it. Where Sen. Obama can walk out of the convention and take the Party with him, if Sen. McCain walked out of the convention, he would be viewed as leaving it behind.

So what can John McCain do that would get lots of publicity, help with the narrative of his campaign and play to his strengths? Realistically, just keep expectations low, give a boring speech at a boring convention, like everyone expects, and hope nobody notices it or remembers it. Which they won’t, probably. And then we move on to the debates, where Sen. McCain should do very well. But what if he didn’t give a speech at all?

Just an idea, and probably a bad one, but what if he simply didn’t give an acceptance speech? If he stood on the floor with the delegation from Arizona, let himself be nominated, and waved his thanks from the floor? Then he lets himself be interviewed by the news programs, one after another, on the floor of the convention, while the crowd celebrates and chants (and bands play) and various popular Republicans come by, interrupt the interviews and slap him on the back. Gently. You know. It would have to be very well organized, and the Senator would have to fully commit to the choreography (as would the Republican officeholders and celebrities), and still it might not work. But it might?

And perhaps in addition, either before counting the votes or the next night, how about some sort of panel discussion about policy with Sen. McCain, Newt Gingrich perhaps, Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or someone from the primaries, and somebody from the administration (that isn’t under indictment), to set up all those ad lib bon mots that John McCain does very well. It’s his strength as a speaker, such as it is.

My Best Reader suggested that, since realistically my idea has no chance of being even considered, the wild news-making idea might be for the candidate and his vice-presidential ticket-mate could give a combined speech, passing the ball back and forth in a conversational but still formal manner. That has the chance of putting the Senator at ease and giving him some opportunity for repartee, while still mostly giving people what they expect, the candidate at the podium in prime time. I see that, although then he really must pick someone he can banter with, which leaves out almost everyone who can help him win the election, right?

Or, of course, he could go Old School, not go to the convention at all, and have some surrogate read his acceptance from the telegram.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


So what can John McCain do that would get lots of publicity, help with the narrative of his campaign and play to his strengths?

Get captured by the North Vietnamese again?

You know, although I am of your political persuasion, I have not a shred of your political acumen. I have often read your political commentary and thought, "I didn't know that," or even, "Is that REALLY true?"

Well, soon I will be able to add some meaningful dialog. I am moving to Indiana in a week and a half, far over to the other side of the red state-blue state divide. My wife has even suggested getting my passport stamped in Ohio. Indiana is the epitome of Conservative Christian America, and it is also (probably) the northern-most state that can boast of any 21st century Klan activity in the press. This is a state that voted 75% for Bush in 2004.

I expect I shall have some interesting and pithy comments to add to your blog in the near future from the POV of the trenches. Considered yourself warned.

As an Indiana resident and child of Midwest, small town Republicans, I have to take issue with this characterization of Indiana.

What you say is more-or-less true of rural Indiana, but as someone who lived in rural Tennessee and who now lives in Indiana, I can say with confidence that even rural Indiana is definitely not the epitome of Conservative Christian America. A lot of the Republicanism here is small town, main street business Republicanism, not the Christian Right.

And the state is not politically homogeneous. Northwest Indiana is rust-belt Democrat, Indianapolis is trending left, and the university towns of Lafayette and especially Bloomington are Democratic (Bloomington is a delightful progressive oasis). On the whole this shakes out to Evan Bayh democrat and not Ted Kennedy democrat, but still . . . If you are bound for any of those parts, you won't directly experience deep red Indiana.

All that said, Indiana as a whole is a poor state with a very weak public education system and not much of an environmental record to speak of. It's as close to the South as you will find in the North.

In many ways it's like the South was before the economic boom of the 1980s caused the urban centers of the South to burgeon with immigrants from the Rust Belt. There's a wave of Hispanic immigration into Indiana now, and that's the first significant in-migration into Indiana since before World War II, and there's still a very serious brain-drain from the state, as educated young Indianians leave for places with better job prospects. However, I am starting to see migration to Indiana from the coasts, as people are attracted by the very low cost of real estate here. And if there is a lot of immigration, the character of the state will begin to change.

Chris: Take issue, by all means. I hope I have not offended. Everything you say is true and a far more complete picture than my biased, tongue-in-cheek caricature. No doubt it is my general irritation at becoming an economic refugee seeking expression.

Whereabouts in Indiana are you? We are heading to the Fort Wayne area. It is interesting to me that you describe Lafayette as Democratic. I know a fellow here (Vard: what is Yiddish for the father of your child's friend?), went to school in Lafayette and described it as politically Conservative when it was not polticially apathetic. But that was five to ten years ago and perhaps things have changed.

We're in South Bend.

Lafayette (where my in-laws live and where my mother grew up) is complicated to describe politically, as there is Lafayette, and there is West Lafayette across the river. The latter is where Purdue is, and it's definitely a Democratic town now (keeping in mind that an Indiana Democrat may well be a conservative by Coastal standards).

Lafayette is more conservative; it's a non-union working class town for the most part. Both Republican and Democratic parties are quite viable in local politics. In the last decade, there have been popular mayors from both parties, iirc. In the Democratic primary, Obama carried Lafayette/West Lafayette's congressional district by a 60/40 margin.

I know less about Fort Wayne, though I'm pretty sure it's more conservative, generally: I'd guess it's rather like Lafayette but without West Lafayette across the river to tug in a progressive direction.

Indiana is definitely trending democratic, however, like the rest of the country. It's in play in the presidential election, and there's a very good chance that we'll elect a (centrist) Democratic governor in November, unseating the deeply unpopular and incompetent Mitch Daniels.

But genuinely progressive ideas are seldom seen in Indiana politics at the state level. I hope to see that change in my lifetime, but there's a long way to go.

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