McCain: This Year’s John Kerry

January 31, 2008 at 5:58 pm 1 comment

Sen. John McCain, who won his third Republican presidential primary this week (Florida), is an admirable candidate: a former prisoner of war, a foreign-policy leader, a paragon of persistence. However, he’s also the 2008 version of Capitol Hill colleague John Kerry, which doesn’t portend well for the Republicans.

Like the Democrats in 2004 after Howard Dean left the race, the Republicans in 2008 don’t have anyone visible and trustworthy enough espousing their basic beliefs: the anti-abortion, anti-illegal immigration, low-tax, business-friendly, pro-Iraq War stance that President Bush has generally held. Today’s GOP has two options: McCain, the maverick who committed the sin of actually working with seven Democrats on the “Gang of 14” legislation, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whose penchant for flip-flopping might make him unpalatable to voters, however appealing his current views may be to conservatives.

In 2004, terrified Democrats quailed at seeming unpatriotic despite disaster in Fallujah and war crimes at Abu Ghraib. They chose a candidate who seemed little more than Bush Lite, a man who was not a personification of the Democratic Party but rather — through his weakness on gay marriage and on the Iraq War — a betrayal of it. In so doing, the Democrats revealed themselves as a party that would prefer to listen to the polls and not its own conscience. This doomed the party to defeat — a close defeat, but a loss nonetheless.

There are risks in choosing your conscience. In 1972, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern epitomized the Democrats’ desire to bring Americans home from Vietnam. Unfortunately, the country could not admit this at the ballot box, and McGovern won just his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Eight years earlier, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater routed the Rockefeller Republicans, only to see his unabashedly conservative campaign implode against an LBJ landslide.

Some could argue that it is a waste of campaign finances and volunteer efforts for a political party to present such unwinnable candidates. However, it is more of a betrayal for a party to deny its basic beliefs a voice in the man or woman it presents for election to the highest office in the land. People like McCain and Kerry have a part in the workings of the Republicans and Democrats, but it is on the sidelines, lending their dissenting voices to the leaders who can really gauge the pulse of the party, people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrats) or (before his brother’s political collapse) former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Elections are a test of ideas: which ones are best to run a country. It is not the candidate who runs but the ideas he or she personifies that matters most. Grass-roots Dems in 2004 wanted a candidate who would speak up for gay marriage and oppose the Iraq War, and got the opposite. Grass-roots Republicans in 2008 want a candidate who will defend social conservative values and oppose illegal immigration. These are not my views, and theirs is not my party, but I believe that they should have someone to represent their views — not a GOP version of Kerry.

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Entry filed under: Elections, President 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Vero Sands  |  January 31, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Rich,
    Are you saying there is no such thing as a moderate Republican?

    I’d like to think that somewhere, deep inside both Democrats Republicans, there is a human being. Though we might take sides, in the end, we vote for a whole person, and perhaps for the one who gives us the best vision of the wholeness we seek at a given time. With Bush, Republicans sought an extreme. Now, there appears to be a (slight?) shift towards moderation.

    With Democrats, I think the situation is reversed. Whereas with Kerry the winds of caution kept us in the harbor of the status quo, clearly now, there is a slight but significant move towards change.

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