Yes, it is a year for change. Yes Barack Obama knew that before most other politicians and capitalized on that with a unique and brilliant campaign that offered inspiration and principle to us in a consistent and explosive manner. We will elect him as our President tomorrow because he offers our country the best chance for the revival we desperately need.
But, May 13, 2006 is the day that John McCain lost the 2008 Presidential Election. My friend Mike Berman reminds me that that is the day he spoke at Liberty University. In my view, that day began the destruction of one of the best brands in American politics. It is the day that Senator McCain went to kiss the ring of Jerry Falwell, a right wing preacher who McCain had called "an agent of intolerance" in 2000. His visit's purpose was to court the evangelical voters and apologize for being the independent maverick he had been over the course of the last 15 years. He minimized the importance of the high visibility issues where he had broken with his party such as immigration, election reform, federal spending and the anti-gay constitutional amendment on marriage and promised that he would be a leader that the right wing could support and trust.
Earlier this year, many Democrats feared running against one candidate in this presidential Election - that candidate was John McCain. He was the one candidate in the Republican primary who everyone hoped wouldn't win. Sure the deeply unpopular Bush Presidency created an atmosphere that favored Democrats this year. But many assumed that given McCain's special brand of independence, he was the one candidate that could distinguish himself from the President.
But May 13, 2006 changed John McCain in two key fundamental ways that have poisoned his campaign and doomed his chances to ever become President. It soured the media on him and it empowered the evangelical right at a time when their overall influence in the country was dwindling.
He minimized his differences on immigration, on election reform, and changed his support in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy. He began to support every anti-gay initiative he could find. On those and so many other issues, he merged into the George Bush and right wing clone that in these closing days of the campaign have choked him beyond breath. In short, he sold his soul to gain the nomination of his party. When he chose Sarah Palin and made the ultimate sacrifice to the right wing choosing a VP candidate who would energize the evangelical base but clearly lacked his standard of quality in public policy, it cemented his changed persona forever.
Many republicans complained that the media has favored Barrack Obama in this election. In effect they are forgetting that it was John McCain who perfected media relations in his last Presidential run in 2000. Yet those same media allies soured on McCain as he became more and more of a political robot in the Republican message machine and the authenticity they had experienced with him was lost as he tumbled into a pool of right wing muck. It was unattractive for him to court those who had previously dissed him and he had rightly rejected as putting their prejudice and narrow-mindedness above a unified and prosperous country. And his campaign handlers knew that he could no longer provide the access t the media that had once been his hallmark because there was just too much to challenge him on. A once guileless politician suddenly had his true beliefs to hide.
Didn't he know that his uniqueness for his friends in the media was that he didn't fit into those stereotypes for a politician? That his original brand of maverick - rather than the empty word it has become - was exactly the kind of candidate the media would have continued to revere? Perhaps they even would have more aggressively challenged the upstart heir to the outsider brand - Barack Obama - if the original was still around?
And didn't he realize that just as he was concluding that he needed the right wing zealots to win the Presidency, the country had already started to reject their falsely premised "values based" agenda?
No, John McCain didn't understand how a trip to Lynchburg, Virginia on May 16, 2006 would doom his presidential dreams forever.