Friday, February 8, 2008

Can you be conservative and support John McCain?

In the coming years, watch for conservatives falling from the sky. Those on the right will be jumping off tall buildings in record numbers once we inaugurate President Obama, Clinton or McCain. In fact, most on the far right would probably choose splattering on the sidewalk over voting for John McCain, even though the Senator from Arizona has an ‘R’ behind his name. I consider myself a proud and unapologetic member of the vast right wing conspiracy. However, I’m also a McCain supporter. It’s a little like someone cheering for both the Vikings and the Pakcers.

It’s difficult to find a balanced and non knee-jerk analysis of McCain. Those on the right let emotion (and the screaming of Limbaugh, Coulter and Hannity) overtake independent thought, resulting in hatred for McCain usually reserved for anti-war hippies or Ted Kennedy. The media drools over McCain and often labels him a “Maverick.” I don’t think the mainstream media really understands what a maverick is. To them, a maverick is anyone with a left-of-center viewpoint, especially if the person with that viewpoint associates himself with the Republican Party.

Michael D. Tanner has a good analysis of where McCain stands on important issues at his Cato Institute blog. John Podhoretz at Commentary Magazine does a good job breaking down why many of McCain’s tactics and methods rub conservatives the wrong way. John Kass at the Chicago Tribune does a good job showing how so-called conservatives haven’t been very conservative recently.

First, let’s examine Tanner’s analysis. Tanner says that McCain is a “true fiscal conservative” who loathes earmarks and pork-barrel spending, favors cutting entitlements, and advocates for personal social security accounts. McCain also favors reducing the size of government and following that up with tax cuts. Tanner hates McCain’s insistence on staying the course in Iraq and rips him for being a “recipe for perpetual conflict.” He also slams McCain for his unfriendliness toward the 1st Amendment (re: McCain/Feingold) and his wish that people work for a cause greater than self-interest.

Podhoertz looks outside the box even further and paint’s McCain as a “lousy leader of an ideological movement,” but notes that the Republican Party is a “political vehicle for the American right-of-center,” not an ideological movement. He also says that McCain lacks “partisan combativeness” and refuses to “march in lockstep simply because others expect it of him.” Podhoertz was careful to point out that he wasn’t praising or bashing McCain, but rather making objective (as much as possible, anyway) observations.

Kass’s columns always leave me scratching my head. His most recent McCain piece was no different, but I’m pretty sure I got the gist of it and it helped re-enforce why I’m supporting McCain. This excerpt about our recent years of “conservatives” in Congress covers it: "And all that Republican spending on pork projects wasn't conservative. It was as if Chicago's City Hall ran federal public works, which Mayor Daley will do soon enough, once he and Obama get that Olympics 2016 business figured out.During the Republican primacy, spending was controlled by Illinois' own Dennis Hastert, who as speaker of the House spent like a drunken sailor. The other day, Hastert accused McCain of not being conservative enough, as if Hastert would know.Under Bush-Hastert, Republicans didn't stop the spending. Instead, they became enablers of the big-government machine. They became what they once opposed. They liked power. "

Republicans, or so-called conservatives, haven’t been very conservative lately. They’ve talked about shrinking government, reforming immigration and overhauling entitlements. But when push comes to shove, handouts, pork and bigger government wins over sound public policy and having the backbone to say no to people with their hands out. All true conservatives see this. It pisses them off, and rightfully so. Yet all true conservatives want to still flock to a traditional conservative candidate. Being duped over and over again doesn’t phase them. They keep banging their heads against the wall, hoping that this time the candidate that spews the traditional conservative rhetoric will be the one to finally step up and be their guy.

This dream candidate hasn’t existed during my lifetime. I hold little hope that he or she ever will. That’s why true conservatives need to turn off Limbaugh and his immitators and give McCain a shot. Tanner highlighted how McCain is a true conservative when it comes to spending and eventually tax cuts. There’s little doubt that he will be strong on national defense and terrorism issues. Combine these core conservative values with McCain’s willingness to tick off members of both parties an you have a very unique candidate. You have someone that is believable when he says he will shrink government and deal with the issues in Iran. On the flip side, you also have someone who is believable when he says he will grant amnesty to illegal aliens and work on legislation to address global warming.

I never said you wouldn’t have to compromise some to support McCain. Welcome to the real world. But if you look outside the traditional conservative box, you’ll see a solid candidate. Most importantly, you’ll see a candidate that has a much better shot of actually following through on his proposed conservative policies, unlike the cookie-cutter conservatives that have been failing us for so long.

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