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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Who’s the Real John McCain?

So: do you know anybody who is strongly pro-choice but is considering a vote in November for John McCain? If so, you should send him or her a link to today’s New Republic article by Sarah Bluestain, which demolishes the common belief that McCain is a “moderate” on abortion policy, or perhaps even covertly pro-choice. Looking at his voting record in Congress over a quarter of a century, and talking to people on both sides of the issue who know him well, Bluestain establishes pretty clearly that McCain’s brief expression of opposition to the overturning of Roe v. Wade during his first presidential run in 2000 was completely out of character:

To many voters, the McCain of 2000 is the true McCain, with his latest statements constituting an understandable, if undignified, pander to the GOP’s right-wing base. They simply cannot believe that the maverick who defied the party’s hard-core social conservatives on embryonic stem cell research and campaign finance reform would toe the conservative line on abortion. But, in truth, it was his 2000 position on abortion that was the outlier–a short-lived attempt to court the center after George W. Bush had locked up the religious right’s support. McCain is not, and never was, a moderate.

It’s very important that Democrats get across to persuadable voters that this characterization of McCain is accurate on a broad array of issues. His entire campaign depends on perpetuating the “maverick” image he cultivated during and immediately after his 2000 presidential bid, before returing emphatically to his conservative roots on domestic policy and epitomizing the neoconservative point of view on international relations.
Sure, some conservative activists don’t quite trust McCain thanks to his 2000 rhetoric, but he’s done everything within his power in recent years to convince them the “real John McCain” is a man who would continue and on some issues even intensify the conservative ideological commitments of the Bush administration. Given the political dynamics of the country right now, McCain offers the Right the only plausible strategy for hanging onto the executive branch of the federal government, and extending their control of the judicial branch, and with it, the Constitution. So conservatives will cooperate with McCain’s “maverick” deception, even as they rely on its ultimate emptiness.

3 comments on “Who’s the Real John McCain?

  1. edkilgore on

    Ciccina:
    If Obama chooses Bayh or Biden or Kaine, I’ll be glad to do the suggested analysis, though the short answer is that the positions of at least the first two men would leave more than 99% of abortions legal, while McCain’s would make more than 99% of abortions illegal. I think relentlessly informing voters of that fact might well change how the candidates “seem.” And frankly, I could care less whether McCain’s hard-line anti-abortion record is about his religion, his secular ideology, hostility to women, or just crass politics.
    Don’t know exactly how you are using the term “religionist,” but if all it means is a religious affiliation that affects a candidate’s (or voters’) views, then for better or worse, this is and will remain for the foreseeable future a “religionist” nation.
    Thanks for the comment.
    Ed Kilgore

    Reply
  2. edkilgore on

    Ciccina:
    If Obama chooses Bayh or Biden or Kaine, I’ll be glad to do the suggested analysis, though the short answer is that the positions of at least the first two men would leave more than 99% of abortions legal, while McCain’s would make more than 99% of abortions illegal. I think relentlessly informing voters of that fact might well change how the candidates “seem.” And frankly, I could care less whether McCain’s hard-line anti-abortion record is about his religion, his secular ideology, hostility to women, or just crass politics.
    Don’t know exactly how you are using the term “religionist,” but if all it means is a religious affiliation that affects a candidate’s (or voters’) views, then for better or worse, this is and will remain for the foreseeable future a “religionist” nation.
    Thanks for the comment.
    Ed Kilgore

    Reply
  3. Ciccina on

    I look forward to a similarly thorough analysis of the facts and implications of Evan Bayh’s record on choice, should he become the VP pick. Bayh, similar to Obama, doesn’t believe in the health exception stipulated under Roe v. Wade.
    People assume McCain is moderate because he is not a religionist. In fact, he comes off as a guy who couldn’t care less about religion.
    Obama, on the other hand, is paddling as fast as he rhetorically can towards the religionist camp. Thus he will appear more conservative than he (hopefully) is.
    Obama’s religion message muddies the progressive / regressive frame.

    Reply

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