His plan to become TR is drop-dead simple:
- Suck up to President Bush and key constituencies.
- Watch Cheney be indicted and have Bush select him as a lifeline.
- Either succeed Bush in 2008 or (if the heat gets too hot) take over himself and pardon everyone.
- Do what he wants with absolute power and popularity.
Every generation has a political crisis, and usually the opposition party comes out winning the next generation. The one exception in our history was the 1890s, when the Thesis of the Civil War reached its sell-by date, when Populism was on the rise under William Jennings Bryan.
Roosevelt became the answer to this mystery. He made himself an artificial hero in 1898, became McKinley’s Vice President in 1900, took over after McKinley’s assassination, then co-opted the opposition in the form of the Progressive movement.
McCain puts himself in the TR role. Progressivism made gains, but relatively minor ones. Populism, meanwhile, morphed into religious bigotry (the Scopes trial, Jerry Falwell) and racism (Jim Crow, the Minutemen).
Because of TR progressives were split. Roosevelt led them in the
GOP, and when he ran as an independent the Democrats got their only
President of the era, Woodrow Wilson. Democrats were also split.
Wilson, who had been Governor of New Jersey, was an economic
progressive but socially regressive, a violent racist born in Virginia
and a practicing attorney in Georgia who felt Griffith’s "Birth of a
Nation" was accurate.
The question is, can McCain pull it off?
- Maybe, in the short run. He is fast becoming the only card Bush has to play and avoid criminal charges himself.
- Less likely, unless he changes radically in office. All of today’s progressives are Democrats.
- Even less likely, because his strategy is based entirely on a proprietary political sphere, rejecting open source as a political style.
But that’s the plan.