2.06.2008

John McCain and the Republican Right

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:

(Photo of Sen. John McCain at a National Guard Association conference in Puerto Rico in 2007 by jim.greenhill of Durango, CO, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)







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2 comments:

Danny Vice said...

While I fully understand the angst of Conservatives in their policy opposition to John McCain blunders like Illegal immigration, Conservatives are beginning to amaze me in their inability to see the larger picture.

Many talk radio hosts have battled a McCain nomination. Even Focus On The Family Director Dr. Dobson (who I admire ) has declared his refusal to vote for McCain. This astonishes me because it’s the same as saying “if I don’t get the conservative I want, I’ll let the country go to hell in a hand basket:” This, in my opinion is very naive and unthoughtful - since our children will be growing up in the aftermath of such a decision.

Anti McCain pundits and commentators such as Rush Limbaugh have ventured the idea that perhaps we should sit this election out and let the Dems have a term in office, claiming it might pave the way for a future shot at a candidate he and others will like in four years.

While I understand these expressions of dismay, I think it’s shortsighted. Imagine the damage our country will endure if Democrats control all three branches of government for 4 to 8 years. .

This would give liberals what they will treat as a clear sign from America that is it ready to move sharply to the left. Conservatism will lose most of it’s teeth and the liberal agenda could easily reverse all of the progress we’ve made in the war on terror, Tax reduction, Pro Life, and other extremely important issue.

We can always address the issue of immigration again in 4 years. What we cannot afford to see happen is a liberal agenda that makes illegal immigration the least of our country’s problems. Our country may be so torn up, it won’t have the time to even visit the issue, like we can today.

There is no such thing as a quick recovery from 4 years of liberalism unchecked. We may be facing what will take years and years of damage to undo. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that it WILL be undone. The passage of even one single liberal law is extremely difficult to outlaw - as if Roe V Wade hasn’t taught us this already!

Rush Limbaugh and others may revel in 4 years of liberal destruction as a talk radio host who can use the material, however all it takes is one liberal judge appointed to the Supreme Court to unravel the one ace we’ve achieved in the last 8 years. This doesn’t occur to me as a smart decision for Conservatives to be making..

As Evangelical Conservatives know, Pride commeth before the fall, and I hope they will study that verse before deciding to approach this election with dismay rather than enthusiasm.

Questioning McCain was right and highly useful for a time and a season. But there are greater threats looming on our horizon than John McCain.

It’s time to put our differences aside and get with the business assuring our children, they will not grow up in a socialist, liberally dominated world. This may be our cross roads, and it is certainly no time to be staying home on Election Day.

Danny Vice
The Weekly Vice
http://weeklyvice.blogspot.com

ThaLunatic Daily
http://thalunatic.blogspot.com

Rick Rockwell said...

I feel compelled to respond, if only to clarify the record.

Certainly, McCain has found his record on immigration is one that most of the Republican party doesn’t appreciate or understand. But being a Senator from a border state, he does understand the issue, and his constituents want some answers on how the government fails to acknowledge the current realities. Although he has backtracked (waffled?) from his position in the summer, McCain was one of the few Republicans willing to craft a compromise on immigration that was better than the original Bush positions and was a bi-partisan compromise. The problem was it was a bad compromise. Not many liked it and the deal fell apart.

If you have fears about the Democrats controlling the government, maybe you should understand what Republicans have done in the past eight years when they have controlled all three branches for much of that time.

The Bush administration has undercut the Constitution like no other administration previously and has established dangerous executive privilege precedents. The Bush administration has rolled back parts of the social safety net; some changes (such as attacks on labor rights and workplace safety) have assaulted progress made under FDR. Besides getting us mired in an ill-advised war, this administration has done its best to return this nation to the way it was in the Hoover administration. If you think the worst of the recession and the housing crisis has been seen, just wait. People will be mentioning the Hoover years a lot more in the next year in comparison to Bush.

By the way, have you thought about all the names the younger generation are going to be calling us for gleefully spending our Bush tax rebates at the mall while we mortgaged the future to China?

Finally, please note Roe v. Wade is not a law that was passed by Congress. It was a Supreme Court decision. This exemplifies the problem. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk broadcast half-truths and propaganda to listeners who don’t understand the basics of civics. How can they be expected to parse policy issues?

This country should not fear Liberals. If this country had a real Liberal at the helm (rather than those masquerading as representing the left) we’d be much better off.

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