by Jeff Siegel
John McCain looks pretty damned conservative to me. He is a decorated war hero who wants to escalate the foolishness in Iraq. He thinks Roe v. Wade is wrong, and will nominate anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court. He wants to cut taxes and cut the federal budget, the party's Holy Grail.
So why do so many on the Republicans' right wing hate McCain as much as they hate Hillary Clinton?
Your guess is as good as mine. The always erudite Rush Limbaugh says Sen. McCain (R-AZ) is not a loyal Republican. James Dobson, the heavy hitting Christian evangelical, goes even further: "I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are … I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience."
Makes it sound like McCain is the second coming of George "Abortion, Acid, and Amnesty" McGovern, doesn't it?
The disdain that the right wing feels for McCain, whose showing in the Republican Super Tuesday primary seems to give him the inside track for the party's presidential nomination, is Monty Python funny to those of us who don't belong to the Republican right wing. McCain is in the GOP cheese shop, and they keep telling him they don't have any cheese.
More importantly, though, it's another example of the continuing erosion of our two-party system. One reason why our system has historically worked so well is that we have really never had more than two major parties. There has always been room in the major parties for people who didn't agree – Jim Crow racists and liberal Civil Rights advocates in the Democratic Party, for example, or the Republican mix of social conservatives and dope smoking ex-hippies turned entrepreneurs. This lends stability to the system, a continuity that doesn't exist in countries where the government falls every other week (see Italy) because there are so many parties and it is so difficult to put a governing coalition together. It's not a coincidence that significant three-party U.S. elections often occur during periods of great crisis, like 1860.
The Limbaugh/Dobson Republicans don't want McCain, who they see as not conservative enough. The Democratic Leadership Council doesn't want people like me, who they see as not conservative enough. In this, each side deserves each other, for they have more in common than they know. To paraphrase the late Molly Ivins: Neither wants to govern – they want to rule, bending the other side to its will.
The irony to McCain's success in the Republican primaries is that, despite the party's albatrosses of the Iraq War and an economy heading into recession, he can beat the Democratic nominee (who I still think will be Mrs. Clinton). Those very qualities that annoy Limbaugh and Dobson appeal to voters fed up with the U.S. political elite. Do not be mistaken – McCain is no Dennis Kucinich, who wants to throw all the bums out, burn down their houses and bury the ashes. McCain is a member of the elite, a self-described Reagan Republican. But, periodically, he does speak his mind, whether it's co-authoring a campaign finance reform bill or standing up to the cable and telecommunications industry.
That's what scares the party ideologues. We must all be of one mind, and it must be theirs. That McCain would do almost all they want is irrelevant, and that's what should scare the rest of us.
For more background, please see these archival posts:
- "Hillary Clinton Does not Deserve to be President;"
- "New Hampshire: Barack Obama's Latest Hope;"
- "John Edwards Says Goodbye to the Campaign Trail, For Now;"
- "Rush Limbaugh's Ratings Ploy: The Phony Soldiers Controversy;"
- "Campaign 2008: Claiming the Questionable Past to Remake the Future;" and
- "Mike Huckabee, Texas Ranger."
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