Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Rise and Fall of McMaverick

The 2008 Presidential Election is less than 1 week away. American and the world are about to witness the exciting and historical event that an African-American intellectual and activist from an average family becomes the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. My crystal ball says that Barrack Obama will defeat John McCain in an electoral landslide of 354 to 184 with a nationwide popular vote margin of 10% or 55% vs. 45%. Also the voter turn out, as measured by the ratio of the number of voters over the number of eligible (including those did not register) voters, will be over 60% like the highs during 1960s.

A little digression on the election rule: American President selection is not determined by the majority of the popular vote of the country. Rather, it is elected formally with the majority of its Electoral College of 538 representatives from 50 states who are in practice bounded by their state’s election results. That is, the next president is the candidate who wins 270 or more electoral votes. The number 538 came from the idea that the Electoral College needs to reflect the federated government system whereby each state has 2 senators and congressional districts and thus representatives whose number is proportional to the state population. There are currently 435 congressmen and 100 senators. In addition, Washington D.C. has 3 congressional seats. Thus the total number of electoral is the magic number 538(=435+100+3). Further, except for Maine and Nebraska who adopted the so called Congressional District Method in allocation of their electoral votes (4 and 5, respectively) according to the state popular votes, the rest all use the “winner takes all” system in which the candidate who won the majority votes as little as 1 vote, will be given ALL the electoral votes of that state. Thus it is possible that in this federated government system with the electoral allocation methods, a candidate who won in total populate votes of the nation may not be the next president that was exactly what happened in 2000 when Al Gore lost the election to George W. Bush. who received about half a million popular fewer votes.

While McCain and Palin continue to campaign and pray they may still win, and while their advisors and handlers are busy blaming each other, I would offer my humble observation of why McMaverick is doomed to lose this election from the beginning.

McCain has always been fond of and played up his maverick image of his 26 years of services in congress and in Republic party. To be a maverick, you need to define yourself with what your are NOT and the contrast of a contesting and dominating theme that you are against. That is, you are frequently on the minority side and can’t be seen to be a part of the main stream of your political party and ideologues. Of course, it is a possible niche position where you can retain some of your independence within the party and at the same time be perceived and admired as such by the larger public. That has been exactly John McCain’s favorite position and self-image.

Unfortunately, it is very different when running for a national office like the president. One needs to make the transition from maverick to one who can rally key constituents of the party to follow you and at the same time retaining the maverick image and core supporters in and outside the party. The bottom line is McCain has failed to accomplish the transition miserably. Instead, he appeared to be erratic, warbling and hopelessly lost.

McCain should know better; he was tested before in 2000 when he lost the Republican South Carolina primary to George W. Bush’s smear campaign. He is seen “correcting” his mistakes in this campaign and tried a few dirty tricks but just could not go all the way. He tried hard to appease the Republic base with moves such as having Sarah Palin as the Vice President candidate but just could not agree to and embrace some of their ideas. His overly simplistic gut views and beliefs, coupled with reactionary approach and lack of vision, are so shallow that he had nothing substantial or coherent with which he can persuade his own party and others. At the end, he failed to win the party right wings over and at the same time, lost the support of conservative intellectual in the process.

I reject the argument and excuse by some that it is all because of the bad economy and bad timing that McCain is behind in polls. I do believe people are making a rational choice as one has a rare chance to get a better insight of the candidates through the crisis before rather than after the election.

Like the idiom says, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” John McCain won the primary and will lose the election because he is a maverick - John McCain runs against John McCain; both lose.

Talk to you soon!

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