Advice to McCain: Try a Little Tenderness

Among John McCain's heralded achievements in this campaign is his endorsement of the troop surge in Iraq, which, from all indications, has been successful in helping to quell both al Qaeda and domestic sectarian violence in Iraq. However, with a recent Washington Post poll showing ambivalence about Republicans' prescriptions for the economy among working-class and poor Americans, he needs a surge of empathy to demonstrate he is concerned with the plight of everyday Americans.

The Post's poll also revealed, surprisingly, that Obama enjoys a 10-point advantage among poor working-class whites, a fact that underscores the pressing economic issues faced by many Americans. While many have expressed skepticism about Obama's elitism and distance from the pulse of the heartland, as well as his stance on energy exploration, they nonetheless feel that he is the more empathetic candidate when it comes to the everyday economic problems we all face.

Thus far, McCain has offered expanding domestic production of oil as a salve to soothe the wounds created by escalating energy prices. But the supply-side improvements may seem to some to offer only indirect solutions to the problem. People want something that they feel is directed at them, and not a trickle-down solution that might end up lining Big Oil's already overflowing coffers.

In other words, McCain has got to start demonstrating that he cares about people and not just profits. The question comes down to one of perspective. What's more important: the amount of money people have to spend on their wants and needs, or setting the preconditions for spending by investing in profit-making enterprises? Certainly, as entrepreneurs and investors, one sees the immense potential that investing in business can have in the future. But the fact of the matter is that most of America has pressing, immediate needs and may not be able to see that far down the road.

While McCain may have a road map for ultimate success in improving domestic economic conditions, he should be aware that the map is not the territory. The situation on the ground is pressing — some might even say depressing. So despite the fact that there might be rough seas on the horizon, McCain would do well to offer sympathetic words and symbols to show that he is in the same boat, that he feels the pain as well. A people weary with war and economic displacement need at least a bit of sentiment from their leaders. It is time to try a little tenderness.



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