The best indicator of why the Republican Party is such a bad choice for another tour in the White House is the incessant rants from the right wing about the need for CONSERVATIVE candidates. According to Limbaugh, Boortz, Hannity and the rest, McCain betrayed his party by forging alliances with, heavens, Senate Democrats.
On the other hand, McCain has proven himself unworthy by cozying up to the very people who hi-jacked his party and helped swing two elections that gave us one of history’s greatest bunglers and a host of incompetent enabling ideologues. Swallowing his pride McCain forgave Bush for the dirty tricks his people pulled in 2000 and also embraced leaders on the religious right in an effort finally to win the presidency he has been salivating about all these years.
And yet right-wing radio personalities, able to disrupt campaigns and demonize whatever target they find juicy enough, have decided, in their infinite imbecility, to demonize McCain, one of the Senate’s most conservative members and a devotee of Ronald Reagan. Today’s angry right-wing zealots would do well to recall that Reagan granted amnesty to illegals when he was president and, some might argue, encouraged the steady stream of illegals across the border to this day. But that aside, conservatives in a rage about the issue, attack McCain for signing on to an immigration reform package they call “amnesty”, especially since he worked with Ted Kennedy to craft the bill.
But so far Republican campaign rhetoric has dealt less frequently with issues and substantive policy more often focusing on conservative talking points. McCain was wrong to oppose the Bush tax cuts he thought should help middle-income earners rather than the rich. He was wrong to show concern about environmental issues many conservatives think are premised on a hoax; he was wrong to speak out about the use of torture when the Attorney General and the President waffled about its definition, and he was wrong to co-sponsor a campaign-finance reform bill with Democrat Russ Feingold. Republicans have always posited that unfettered spending on campaigns is a freedom-of-speech issue and were no doubt convinced until recently that they would continue to out-raise Democrats.
In any case it has come to pass that many conservatives call McCain a LIBERAL – – as Pat Buchanan put it recently, someone who poked a stick in the eye of Republican stalwarts who demand strict adherence to the party line. Never mind that he remains a fervent supporter of the war in Iraq or that he is against abortion and promises to appoint conservative judges or that he adores Reagan, the man Republicans revere above all others or that he is trying mightily to climb on to the conservative bandwagon. Right-wing radio hosts still push the candidacy of Mitt Romney, a man who has changed positions so often he is an amalgam of contradictions except for his obvious reputation as a corporate standard bearer; perhaps that is qualification enough for many on the right.
The point is not that John McCain is a viable candidate or that he would make a good president. He doesn’t even come close to qualifying for that high office. It is rather that when a campaign is based on who best wears the conservative mantel, loyal party members may find themselves with a candidate of lesser capabilities who relies on partisan dogma to direct policy. That is what we have now in a Congress and especially the Senate where Minority Leader McConnell swore when Democrats assumed the leadership that he would do everything he could to block Democratic legislation even if his party favored it, and he has been quite successful in doing just that.
Such postures do not enhance the legislative process nor are they productive in plotting a constructive course for the country. While each party has its particular traits and strives to enhance its position, “values” should reflect something more than one’s religious convictions, personal beliefs or political loyalties.
A Party’s platform may include but should also rise above partisanship. That right-wing pundits are trying to retain their hold on the power to shape opinion among a vast impressionable audience is one indication of why electing a Republican president would be a mistake. The application of a party label is not in itself a qualification for making it to the White House. The journey is more arduous, the implications far more profound.