Jimmy Carter had his difficulties leading into the 1980 election, but I can’t think of an example of a major party’s political philosophy going quite this hard into the tank in the months leading up to a presidential election. The Bush presidency is going out on about the sourest note conceivable. And John McCain doesn’t have much room to separate himself from the disaster. It’s true that McCain hasn’t always been a lockstep supporter of the Bush administration, but he has supported him the most in the areas where he has failed the most dramatically. John McCain was for invading Iraq before Bush ever decided to run for the presidency, and he was for deregulating the financial services industry before Bush was elected the governor of Texas.

At the outset of the Bush administration, McCain opposed his tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy on the grounds of fiscal conservatism. Now he makes fun of Joe Biden for suggesting that the ultra-wealthy might show some patriotism by paying for a sliver of the cost of the war.

McCain supported the president in his most disastrous domestic policy initiative: the effort to privatize Social Security. And John McCain embraced the worst of Bush’s religious extremism when he selected a John Bircher, creationist, no exception for rape or incent fundamentalist as his running mate.

The Republican Party has proven itself to be inept in both foreign and economic policy and also to be fabulously corrupt. McCain cannot distance himself from that failure. The question is whether this disaster will resonate throughout the downticket races. I hope so.

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