Will: Argue divided government

George Will offers John McCain some advice on how to keep the narrative now that Sarah Palin has captured the nation’s attention.  Break out the power of the veto pen, Will advises, and remind voters that they need a counterbalance to a Democratic Congress.  List the calamities that will follow without it — which Will helpfully provides:

The incumbent Republican president’s job approval is in the low 30s but is about 10 points higher than that of the Democratic-controlled Congress. The 22nd Amendment will banish the president in January, but Congress will then be even more Democratic than it is now. Does the country really want there to be no check on it? Consider two things that will quickly become law unless McCain is there to veto them or unless — this is a thin reed on which to depend — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has 40 reliable senators to filibuster them to deserved deaths.

The exquisitely misnamed Employee Free Choice Act would strip from workers their right to secret ballots in unionization elections. Instead, unions could use the “card check” system: Once a majority of a company’s employees — each person confronted one on one by a union organizer in an inherently coercive setting — sign cards expressing consent, the union would be certified as the bargaining agent for all workers. Proving that the law’s purpose is less to improve workers’ conditions than to capture dues payers for the unions, the law would forbid employers from discouraging unionization by giving “unilateral” — not negotiated — improvements in compensation and working conditions.

Unless McCain is president, the government will reinstate the equally misnamed “fairness doctrine.” Until Ronald Reagan eliminated it in 1987, that regulation discouraged freewheeling political programming by the threat of litigation over inherently vague standards of “fairness” in presenting “balanced” political views. In 1980 there were fewer than 100 radio talk shows nationwide. Today there are more than 1,400 stations entirely devoted to talk formats. Liberals, not satisfied with their domination of academia, Hollywood and most of the mainstream media, want to kill talk radio, where liberals have been unable to dent conservatives’ dominance.

It’s an interesting tactic: run against a Congress of which both candidates are members.  That carries some obvious risk, as McCain’s long tenure in the Senate would make it look as though he’s part of the problem he attacks.   However, under Democratic leadership, popular opinion of Congress has taken a nosedive into single digits.  It seems to be the one unifying factor in America these days — almost everyone hates Congress.

I’m surprised we haven’t seen an outbreak of Congressmen jokes: A Representative, a Senator, and a lobbyist walk into an airport bathroom …

That argument also sounds almost cynical, in a way.  The Republicans have been buoyed by recent polling that shows them within striking range of narrowing their gap in Congress or having a long-shot chance of taking the majority.  A McCain call for divided government might sound like a white flag on Congressional elections.  Would this argument throw cold water on voter enthusiasm to reject the 9%, do-nothing leadership of the House by telling voters not to worry about removing their Democratic incumbents if McCain wins?

However, Will may be right in this case.  It’s more likely that the Democrats will keep the House, and there’s almost no way they can lose the Senate, with 23 Republican seats up for grabs and only 13 seats for Democrats to defend.  There is little doubt that one-party rule by Democrats will result in both the Fairness Doctrine and Card Check getting written into law.  Both of them would severely undermine the American practice of freedom, one by silencing free speech on the airwaves, and the latter by eliminating the secret ballot in union organizing elections.  Card Check is a blank check for a spigot of money that will float Democrats in elections for generations, the only reason for its existence.

McCain needs to emphasize these two potential outcomes and cast himself as the last defense against these two destructive bills.  It doesn’t have to be the only theme he uses, but it should be one of the arrows in the quiver.