So, predictably at this point, John McCain has cinched the Republican primary. Unlike most Republican nominees, however, McCain’s win seems not to be because of Conservatives, but in spite of them. McCain’s win was handed to him largely by open primary states, which allowed Democrats and indies to help select the Republican nominee. This is evident to anyone who deigns to pay attention: Conservatives don’t want to vote for John McCain. McCain himself seemed to know this; he’s spent the entire primary process pandering to “independents and independent-thinking Democrats.” This has not gone unnoticed by the core of the Republican party. Even in these latest Primaries, where McCain was essentially the only viable candidate running, he barely scraped more than half the vote.
Rather than celebrating, McCain should perhaps be wondering how he managed to alienate his party so badly, and what he can do about it. It is a victory, for certain — but if McCain is half the Conservative he has recently claimed to be, it ought to ring as a hollow one.
I am one of many registered Republicans who has not yet fully made up his mind about whether or not to punch the ballot for McCain come November. He spent the entire primary fairly blatant about neither needing nor wanting the help or input of my fellow Conservatives. There’s a part of many of us that thinks perhaps he also doesn’t need it now. It is this part of me that cries out not to pull that lever.
Then there is another part of me. A more fatalistic part that says no matter what, we’re going to get somebody in office with a far more liberal record than I’d prefer. It is this more logical side which suggests that 60% right is far better than 100% wrong.
Let’s step back for a moment from what this election means for Conservatism in general. Others have touched on it already, and I’ll look more in depth at it in the future. Let’s focus instead on this country’s direction in the next four years. The time for hand-wringing is over. Either McCain, Obama or Clinton will be in the White House for the next four years.
I’m going to pretend my mind’s made up — that I’ll vote for McCain. It isn’t, and I’m not sure I will, but for the sake of conversation. John McCain needs to understand that, whatever he thought during the Primaries, he does need the Conservative vote. To some degree, he accepts this premise, and has indicated as much.
He and his supporters cannot make the assumption, and should not make the demand, that Conservatives simply put aside their differences and fall in line. “Shut up and do what you’re told” isn’t going to work anymore. As I said, too many Republicans simply don’t want to vote for McCain — he hasn’t earned it. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to consider not voting McCain, and those need to be addressed by the McCain camp if he hopes for victory — not merely waved off as annoyances or distractions.
McCain needs to court the Conservative vote. He needs to start by choosing an acceptable running mate. Not somebody he chooses under the guise of “bipartisanship” — Conservatives are about sick to death of hearing that word — but a strong candidate with strong conservative credentials. He needs to show us — not just tell us — that his “gang of 14” days are behind him. He needs to repudiate McCain-Feingold and McCain-Kennedy as the travesties they are — or at the very least establish a commitment to listen to our concerns on these (something which he has repeatedly failed to do) and examine the issues from a perspective of Constitutional law. Both of these pieces of legislation aimed to accomplish something that a more Constitutionally-sound (and conservative) approach would have addressed better, and he needs to show a willingness to examine those options. And he’d damn well better make good on his recent promises regarding taxation.
In short, McCain simply cannot take his nomination as a mandate for “business as usual.” We’re not going to tolerate four years of dismissing or acting confrontationally toward the conservative wing of this party. He’s spent his career as a Senator doing just that — four years doing it as president will all but guarantee a Democrat President for the next four years. If I choose to vote for him this year, this is his second chance. If he fails to deliver, there won’t be another. Certainly, not from me.