Thursday, March 30, 2006

Update on John McCain's Tango with the Far Right

It looks like I'm not the only blogger opining about John McCain's efforts to woo the far right base of the GOP. Mathew Pruitt over at Centerfield thinks E.J. Dionne's column in the Washington Post was a bit unfair to the Arizona Senator since he doesn't allow McCain to explain some of his actions and also because Dionne forgets that to move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. you have to get the party's nomination.

Joe Gandleman from The Moderate Voice gives an indepth opinion on McCain "tightrope act," especially his making nice with Jerry Fawell. We find out that McCain has expressed support in a constituional "marriage protection" amendment, a big turnaround from 2004. He shares this exerpt from ABC News:

Falwell and McCain first made peace in a face-to-face meeting a few months ago. In a sign of their improved relationship, McCain has agreed to be the graduation speaker at Falwell's Liberty University on May 13.

When McCain accepted an invitation to be Liberty University's graduation speaker, he spoke with Falwell by phone about the marriage issue.

According to Falwell, McCain is not pushing for a federal marriage amendment at this time. But McCain "reconfirmed" to Falwell that he would support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman if a federal court were to strike down state constitutional bans on gay marriage.

McCain's outreach to conservatives on marriage is politically important because of the way he sharply denounced a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage when it was considered in 2004. McCain called it "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans" because it "usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."

Gandleman notes that McCain's tightrope act might end up dooming his campaign, because he will lose the respect of Independents and Democrats who liked his "maverick status:"

McCain's problem is this: unlike many GOPers, first he has to prove to many Republicans that he is a "real" Republican. He has to downplay his "maverick" image with GOPers by making peace with them, praising them, assuring them, suggesting that deep down inside he is either one of them or close to being one of them. But in doing so he has to file down the edges of his strong image as a straight-talking, independent-minded Republican who may be hated by some people within the GOP who Democrats and independents also dislike. He has to become like any, 'ol Republican to get nominated.

The problem: if he does that and then gets the nomination he will have so altered his image that he won't have the same appeal (or in sheer numbers supporters or activists) as he did in 2000.

There is no doubt that McCain's wants to be president. And there is also no doubt that he is making nice with what Andrew Sullivan calls the "Christianists" because he was burned by them back in 2000. In some ways, he's doing what George Bush did back then, after seeing his father going down to defeat in 1992. Bush the Younger believes his father lost re-election to Bill Clinton because he didn't shore up the far right and since that time the President has decided to become the far right's handmaiden. But as I said before, when you are in for a penny with the far right, you are in for a pound. The Jerry Fawells and Grover Norquists of the world are not going to satisfied with a few bones, they have an agenda and they want to get it accomplished.

I think McCain is missing an opportunity to build a new working majority in the way that Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won by getting disgruntled Democrats to his side. McCain could create a new GOP majority based on Democrats who are dismayed by the leftward drift of their party, as well as independents. He could create a new centrist majority that could work at getting some of our nation's problems solved.

But instead he is trying to make nice with a faction of the party that isn't nice. I don't know about you, but I think this might doom McCain's "wow factor." He might have worked so hard to keep his right flank in check, that he will realize that McCain's base (not the GOP base) will have eroded.

As they say, this is developing...

You can read my earlier post here.

1 comment:

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

I doubt any Republican can get Democrats who are "dismayed by the leftward drift of their party" at this point, because Democrats are becoming far more suspicious of the rightward charge of the Republican party.