It seems to me that implicit in a lot of conservative criticism of the stimulus bill, the mortgage plan, and Obama's cap-and-trade scheme, among other things, must be the odd notion that things would have been very different had McCain won the election. While we can be sure that McCain the crazed earmark-hunter would still be with us (no doubt keeping us safe from volcano monitoring and gang tattoo removal), let us recall that McCain supported cap-and-trade (even if he didn't necessarily understand what he was talking about when he said so), proposed an insane mortgage bailout plan that pretty much everyone hated, backed TARP and differed from Obama on taxes largely in that he refused to raise any rates. In the end, the main difference turns out to be a disagreement about whether to return the top rate to its Clinton-era level or not. I guess that is a bit more than a dime's worth of difference, but it isn't much. Of course, this is why so many Republicans were relieved that McCain lost, because had he won they would have ended up backing a whole host of policies that they are currently denouncing as disastrous. At the same time, we would have had an old, irritable President prone to fits of bellicosity in international affairs and moral grandstanding about any issue he doesn’t understand, and behind him would have been an unqualified VP. However bad things are, remember that they could have been far, far worse.
I'm talking to you, Arlen Specter. You might want to do yourself a favor by switching teams and joining the Democrats.
. . . Maybe you’re wondering whether the Democrats would welcome you. Are you kidding? Ed Rendell and Joe Biden teased you about that idea, right to your face, at a Philadelphia event a few weeks back. They're fully aware, as am I, that no other prospective Democratic senatorial candidate can match your name ID or your war chest; in fact, you’re already sitting on $6 million, with the potential to quintuple that amount -- a virtual necessity in this expensive media market. . . .
Most voters would probably agree that you can use some charisma stimulus. But the bottom line is that if you were pitted against a conservative Republican in November ‘10, the swing suburban counties around Philadelphia would be yours, and the donor bucks from women and Jewish groups would be yours.
Perhaps your savviest political move would be to behave as a chameleon, one of those lizards that can change color when sensing danger. A switch from red to blue might well ensure a longer life.-- DICK POLMAN[T]ea-party protesters who hold up signs that read "Obama . . . commander and thief" are clearly preaching to the converted. But those who hold up signs saying "Screw up, move up" or "Honk if you're paying my mortgage" may strike a chord with the wider public. Almost 60% of Americans tell pollsters that they are opposed to giving money to carmakers and banks that are in danger of collapsing. One of the lessons from both the Carter years and the first Clinton term is that new Democratic administrations are vulnerable to a populist backlash from the establishment-bashing, hypocrisy-smashing, small-business-defending right.
But this growing anger poses dangers for the right as well. The Republican Party runs the risk of being captured by its most extreme figures. Rush Limbaugh, a talk-show man who billed his talk to CPAC as an "address to the nation," is now widely regarded as the chief spokesman for the Republican Party, much to the Democrats' delight. The party also risks being branded as a "party of no" at a time when most Americans favor government activism. And Mr Obama still has an approval rating of over 60%: no longer exceptional, but still pretty good.
Mr Obama's most important weapon during the election campaign was his ability to turn anti-Bush anger into pro-American hope. That now seems a world away. The politics of the next few years will be shaped by managing anger rather than transcending it. Mr Obama needs to direct the rising tide of anger at rich Republicans. The Republicans need to direct it at Mr Obama's new establishment. Either way, hope loses.