My children have outgrown fairy tales, but I remember well the story of Chicken Little, the animal who created mayhem as he tried to convince everyone that the sky was falling. The sky never fell. Yet, to listen to some within our own party on the selection of Sen. John McCain as the Republican Party’s nominee for president, one might think the sky was indeed falling. With all the talk and hand-wringing about the end of the Republican Party one might get the impression this election is over before it even starts!
While it is easy to get wrapped up in this fairy tale of pending doom, reality is far more encouraging than the stories of these Chicken Littles. In fact, I believe that if Republicans take a closer look at the impact John McCain will have in this November’s election, down-ticket Republican candidates across the country should be encouraged by the prospect of having McCain lead their ticket this fall.
In the 2006 election, voters demonstrated frustration with the status quo. They took out their disappointment on incumbents who had failed to deliver on the promises they had been elected to fulfill. Republicans talked-the-talk of limited government and fiscal restraint, but they had failed when it came time to walk-the-walk. Spending increased; budget-busting earmarks numbered in the tens of thousands; and voters responded with a resounding “enough is enough.”
Sen. McCain has been a consistent champion for true fiscal restraint — the kind Republicans often talk about but haven’t always followed through on. Unlike lawmakers who, year after year, put in billions of dollars of earmark requests for bridges to nowhere, Woodstock Museums and aging planetariums, McCain has remained a vocal opponent of pork barrel projects. Further, Sen. McCain has been a staunch supporter of presidential Line Item Veto power to strike unnecessary pet-spending projects from bloated Congressional budgets. Republican candidates across the country should be encouraged to run with a leader who has not only talked of fiscal responsibility but has a solid record to back it up.
In addition to being a consistent conservative on spending, in this time of war and increasing threats from Islamic extremists, Sen. McCain has the military training and experience to be the kind of powerful commander in chief our country needs. His experience made him willing to stand up when no one else would and urge a change in strategy in Iraq; a move that now even opponents are begrudgingly admitting is producing success on the ground.
Whether it's his determination to rein uncontrolled government spending or his unambiguous and thoughtful determination to contain an elusive enemy, Sen. McCain and Republicans across the country will present to voters a clear alternative between themselves and their opponents on what matters most: keeping our country safe and our economy strong.
Of course, every presidential election is about "change"; and with voters demonstrating strong desires to change Washington, Sen. McCain’s so-called “maverick” style has been bringing change to Washington throughout his career. Rather than shun this status, Republicans would do well to embrace Sen. McCain’s willingness to rock the boat from time to time. From the local level on up, Republican candidates must show voters they too are willing to reject the status quo this election cycle and not only promise — but deliver on — the change that American voters seek.
So, the sky is definitely not falling. And while some may nitpick at Sen. McCain's record or even the words on this page, Republicans should still recognize the great opportunity we have in electing Sen. McCain this November. We all would be wise not to be misled by the cries of a few Chicken Littles. Instead, we must embrace this new opportunity to go out and show voters a strong Republican Party with candidates who can lead this nation and who will not simply inspire hope but show the American people the power of results.
Michael S. Steele joined FOX News as a contributor in 2007. He is the chairman of GOPAC and the former Lt. Governor of Maryland.