The Good Soldier


THE GOOD SOLDIER….Jon Chait on Biden’s speech:

What continues to be missing is a frame to explain why John McCain believes all these wrongheaded things he talks about. But it’s very simple. McCain used to stand against the ideologues and moneyed interests of the GOP, but he decided that if he wanted to win the GOP nomination, he had to make himself their ally. I suspect Democrats will regret this when Republicans tear Barack Obama’s character apart next week.

Amy Sullivan expands on this a bit:

A number of speakers have made reference to their personal friendship with John McCain, carefully noting how much they admire him, before going on to criticize him. And that’s effective to a point — “more in sorrow than in anger” plays differently than straight-on attacks.

But Democrats might find it would be more effective if they explained why they’re so disappointed with their friend John McCain. How did this great guy they admire so much became a candidate whose positions appall them? It wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t like he had a personality transplant. And the answer would seem to fit perfectly into a powerful Democratic narrative. John McCain changed because that’s what he had to do to win the Republican nomination. That’s what the reigning conservative ideology and interests demanded of him.

Right. It’s what Biden was getting at when he said, “These times require more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader.” It’s a good line, but too subtle. The expanded version is that McCain has had to prostrate himself to the neocons, the theocons, and the moneycons because that’s what it takes to win the Republican nomination these days: you have to be a good soldier. And one way or another that’s a story that the Democrats need to tell. A laundry list of flip-flops doesn’t make an impression unless you explain what’s behind it.

It’s also why I liked the passage from Bill Clinton’s speech that I highlighted yesterday. He didn’t just tie McCain to George Bush, he tied him directly to the full range of contemporary right-wing dogma. That’s what Obama needs to do too. In some simple way, he needs to make people understand that all the stuff they don’t like about the past eight years isn’t just the fault of one guy’s idiosyncrasies, it’s the fault of an entire worldview. And if you elect McCain, you’re electing that worldview too.

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