An argument missing a consequence

AN ARGUMENT MISSING A CONSEQUENCE…. The McCain campaign is reportedly planning to go all in when it comes to warning voters about a Democratic president working with a Democratic Congress. It is a key to his “closing argument,” and as of very recently, an integral part of his stump speech.

McCain said having Democrats in control of the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives under Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and the Senate under Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, would give Democrats unfettered power. […]

“Senator Obama’s tax increase would put even more people out of work,” McCain said. “We’ve seen this before in other countries. It doesn’t work. The answer to a strong economy is not higher taxes.

“But that is exactly what’s going to happen if the Democrats have total control of Washington. We can’t let that happen. Are you ready for Obama, Pelosi and Reid?” the Arizona senator said.

Putting aside McCain’s obvious confusion about economics, McCain’s “warnings” really don’t make any sense. As Yglesias put it, “Presumably, the reason Democrats are forecast to make gains in the House and the Senate and Obama is leading in the polls is that, yes, most voters want Democrats to take over. This sounds more like a fundraising pitch than a general election argument.”

On the surface, there may be something appealing about an amorphous phrase like “checks and balances.” But one of the problems with McCain’s argument is that it lacks consequences. He doesn’t have an answer to the “or what?” question. (“We can let Dems control the White House, Senate, and House,” McCain says. “Or what?” voters ask.)

McCain’s pitch is premised on the notion that voters won’t think it through, and will prefer gridlock just for the sake of gridlock. If the president and the Congress are on the same page, they’ll be more likely to move away from Bush’s economic policies, pass a middle-class tax cut, end the war in Iraq, pass a universal healthcare plan, pass a comprehensive energy policy, and make college more affordable.

McCain’s argument, in effect, is, “Vote for Obama and he’ll likely be able to deliver on his promises. Vote for me so those things you want are less likely to happen.”

McCain has experimented with all kinds of different messages lately, but this is comically unpersuasive. If Democrats are really lucky, McCain will keep this up and make it his central focus for the next nine days.