As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Whither McCain?

I've collected a bunch of articles over the past few days about John McCain and whether he will be able to reconcile the conservative coalition and unite the party. Generally, I think that in the end, hard-core Republicans will go to the polls to vote against Obama or Clinton. However, there is a concern that they won't be happy about it, won't work to get occasional voters out, and won't do what's necessary to get McCain elected.

I mean, despite the media's fluffing of McCain, the conservative media actively hates him (Bill Bennett and his disclosure problem excepted). There are so many news items that can be dug up to "prove" McCain's liberalism, in particular his flirtation with the Democrats after losing to Bush in 2000. Never mind McCain's actually flip-flopped back to the conservative position on practically all of his "maverick" legislation, and even on his signature issue of campaign finance reform, McCain has made liberal use of soft money, in addition to trying to get out of the Presidential public financing system. Here's Joe Conason.

Created after his failed presidential run in 2000, the Reform Institute is a hybrid between a domestic issues think tank and a tasty sugar teat for campaign staffers. Among its senior fellows is former Mexican Cabinet member Juan Hernandez, who also heads the McCain campaign's outreach to Hispanic voters. Other Reform Institute employees have included lobbyist and political consultant Rick Davis, long a member of the McCain inner circle and now his campaign manager.

The sweetest aspect of the Reform Institute -- aside from its commitment to research on immigration reform, campaign finance and other liberal concerns that the senator no longer finds so relevant -- is that its own financing is not subject to the regulations and disclosures of federal election law. In practice, that has meant not only that the McCain crowd could sop up subsidies from foundations run by liberal Democrats but that corporate donors with issues before the Commerce Committee could chip in a few bucks, too. Or a few thousand bucks, or even 50,000 bucks or more, like the executives of Cablevision (under the name CSC Holdings) and Echostar, communications firms with substantial issues at stake before McCain's committee.

Then there was that contribution from American International Group, whose executives had been quite concerned in 2000 about McCain's vow to stop AIG from profiting illicitly on insurance overcharges ripped off from the Boston "Big Dig" project. Sen. John Kerry got most of the blame for the demise of McCain's reform bill, which would have banned insurance giants like AIG from overcharging federal projects and reaping windfalls from investing that money. But it was actually McCain who killed his own bill -- and nobody seems to have checked back to discover that AIG later donated more than $50,000 to the Reform Institute. How much more? That might be a relevant question now, notably because Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the McCain backer who ran AIG in those days, has since been forced to relinquish the company under threat of criminal prosecution.

But this has proven cold comfort for the haters from the right on John McCain. James Dobson is now on record saying that he'll never support the Arizona Senator, and crackpot Richard Viguerie is asking for a NEW candidate to come in, Fred Thompson 2.0 as Josh Marshall calls in, to take McCain down.

I think the media-hungry conservatives want to hold on to their own power, and a McCain win in November is almost more debilitating to them than a McCain loss. They don't want to spread the "myth" that Republicans can win without their support; it would break the stranglehold they think they have on the party. Only they don't; McCain's Senate colleagues, who don't even like him all that much, are reassessing him, and certainly they'd fall in line behind him when he becomes the nominee. Establishment organs like the Wall Street Journal are twisting themselves in knots to argue for a McCain candidacy, arguing that he is needed because a lot of Supreme Court justices are old and will need to be replaced... um, isn't John 72 going on 100? Is that the argument you really want to make?

Conservative James Joyner took a look at this the other day, and came to some interesting conclusions:

Perhaps “conservatives” are now a minority, even among Republican primary voters? If so, given that there are virtually no conservatives remaining in the Democratic Party these days and that voters who aren’t aligned with either party are almost by definition non-ideological, that would mean that conservatives are a small minority, indeed, among the American electorate.

Alternatively, perhaps the definition of “conservative” has become so narrow and esoteric that it’s become virtually meaningless? [...]

The Conservative Movement has morphed from a handful of intellectual true believers trying to shape the debate into something approaching a civil religion with loyalty tests and a clericy that has the power to excommunicate.

John McCain was part of the 1980 wave that rolled into Congress on Ronald Reagan’s coattails. Indeed, McCain was among those Reagan was honored to stand with at 1974’s CPAC convention. But someone with an 82 percent lifetime ACU rating is considered a traitor to the cause. Much better, apparently, to flip 180 degrees on election eve and spout the right Party Line talking points.

As I wrote last year from CPAC, when throngs of so-called conservatives lined up for Ann Coulter’s autograph moments after she referred to John Edwards as a “faggot,” “Somehow, I can’t imagine Ronald Reagan being pleased.” Yet, the modern Conservative Moment seems to be dominated by the shrill nonsense of Coulter and Jonah Goldberg[*] and Michael Savage and Neil Boortz. In short, the Conservative Movement is no longer particularly “conservative” at all.

Yep. And they have a powerful need not to be marginalized. If so, the entire house of cards that is the wingnut welfare system comes crashing down. I have to conclude that the movement will actively work to stop John McCain in November, just as the establishment of the Democratic party worked to stop George McGovern in 1972, and once again, the derailment will come from the ideological right. Their ideas discredited, their movement endangered, they must resort to sabotage to save themselves.

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