Thinking About McCain

Ken AshfordElection 20081 Comment

UPDATE:  Romney’s out, which makes what I say below only more relevant. (P.S.  The reason he’s dropping out of the race?  Because if he stays in, the terrorists win.  Video of his exit speech here)

Man, it’s everywhere.  Everyone on the political right is telling McCain what he HAS to do now to win over the conservative base.  He needs to pick Huckabee as his vice-president.  He needs to say he’ll appoint Ted Olsen as attorney general.  He needs to stake this stance or that stance.  Many of the various demands are chronicled in today’s New York Times.

Of course, I read these things and I wonder: Why does McCain have to do this?  The Republican party had a full slate of candidates running this year, just like the Democrats.  They had a broad spectrum of political ideologies, from staunch conservatives like Thompson to libertarians like Ron Paul.  McCain, the independent "maverick", prevailed.

That’s the way it is.

I think what is happening is that the conservative base of the Republican party has yet to come to terms with the fact that they are small and in the end, they don’t matter.  They are essentially asking McCain to move to the right after his nomination (whereas, typically, candidates typically move to the center after they are nominated).  For every conservative vote McCain will pick up, he’ll probably lose a couple of moderates.  He’ll satisfy the conservative base, and lose the election.

And even if McCain does accede to the conservative wishes, he’s still not going to satisfy all conservatives (James Dobson recently reitierated that he will never ever vote for McCain).  For example, a Huckabee VP nod might mollify evangelical conservative voters, but for fiscal conservatives, Huckabee is considered even worse than McCain.

It’s almost sad to see how the fragmented bands of conservatives think they have the clout to dictate terms to the Republican nominee.  The fact that McCain is the nominee clearly shows that such clout no longer exists.  Like it or not, conservatives have to realize they are a captive audience this election cycle, and they either have to accept McCain as McCain, or accept a Democrat in the White House.  Those are the only two choices.  Period.

Take, for example, this comment I read to a Michelle Malkin post entitled "Is the GOP ‘Lost’?":

“Reaching out” and compromising conservative principles will get us destroyed in the election.

Now that’s just delusional.  Most of the country isn’t conservative; they are moderate or liberal.  How can you win an election by sticking to conservative principles?

It all stems from a self-important notions that a person cannot be elected President without the conservative base.  This, of course, is untrue.  After all, a person got nominated without the conservative base, yes?  In fact, it is probably best to recognize that the conservative "base" isn’t a "base" at all.  Not any more.  Just a hodgepodge of people with different conservative agendae. [RELATED NOTE:  McCain is speaking today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).  Registrants attending the conference have been asked not to boo him.]

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Conservatism isn’t dead.  Rush and his ilk will still have their radio shows.  Fox News will still be there.  But it’s a niche segment of the full political spectrum now.  Their day in the sun is over.  And McCain, is going to what the hell he wants — not what they want.