Friday, November 25, 2005

Let's Talk About McCain

Happy day after thanksgiving, everyone! On this day when most Americans are relentlessly urged to start thinking one month ahead (a.k.a. Christmas shopping), I want to think about THREE YEARS ahead: Election 2008. I just read a thoughtful piece by Ari Berman in The Nation that talks about one potential GOP nominee who is just itching to be President: John McCain.

Many Democrats are now debating about our own nominee (to Hilary or not to Hilary? I say "no")...but what about the Republicans? While Berman points out how much of an uphill fight McCain will face in the GOP primary, I think it is quite possible that he will seem the only viable nominee with moderate appeal and thus a chance of winning, given the continuing downward slide of the Bush Administration. So, I would argue, it is worthwhile to discuss ahead of time how progressives might respond to a McCain nomination.

I think Berman makes a lot of good points about how far-right McCain really is on many issues despite his maverick image. (For a more spirited attack on McCain, see's Matt Stoller on "The McCain Scam", with a follow-up here.) On the other hand, McCain's commitment to campaign finance reform does seem genuine, and he at least stands against torture (scary how that is even an issue!) He would certainly not be as bad as Bush II (but then, who would be?) Yet it is hard to imagine that a McCain presidency would reverse many of the awful directions in which Bush & Cheney have taken this country, given his expressed support for so many of their positions. I wonder what readers of this blog think about how progressives should respond to a potential McCain nomination?


Tess said...

I think it would depend upon whom the Democrats nominate.

Personally, I would be thrilled if I had a choice between someone I strongly supported and someone I liked somewhat. It would be a very nice change from the last presidential election, when I really was at a loss when Bush won again--I couldn't believe so many people supported him.

Why do you say no to Hillary? Is there anyone in particular you'd prefer (besides Kucinich)?

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

I would consider voting for McCain if he was the Republican nominee (but he won't be) and if the Dems ran another mushy centrist (we'll see). Yes, I know that McCain is far to the right of my position on many issues. But he doesn't have the same kind of ideological intolerance that the Bushies have. He might help revive the issue of campaign finance reform, and it would just be good to have an honorable man in the White House for once--even one I disagree with.

Probably I'd say 'no' to Hilary as well. Too centrist, too DLC, and voted for the Iraq war. The Dems are going to have to come up with somebody from outside Washington, I think.

christian_left said...

In response to Tess's question about why I wouldn't support Hillary for the Democratic nomination:
1. Yes, she has good name recognition. But some of that is negative name recognition: too many people dislike her from the beginning. Why start off with a candidate many people are predisposed to dislike (rightly or wrongly)?
2. A northeastern Democrat is less likely to have appeal to Middle America than someone from either a swing state (e.g., Wisconsin, Ohio), or a moderate Southern state (e.g., North Carolina, Tennessee).
3. On a substantive level, as ambivalent_maybe points out, she is too centrist, too pro-business, too pro-war, and too much of an insider. We need someone who will go in and shake up the corrupt political system that operates in this country; that's not Hillary's way.
4. I'm opposed in principle to supporting family dynasties, however constructed. Thus, I held it against Bush Jr. that his father had been President (as if I needed another reason), and I feel like I have to apply the principle evenly. If someone can prove that he or she is worthy in her/his own right, then I would be willing to consider such a person. But Hillary's performance as NY senator so far has not convinced me that she would be a great or visionary leader... it has only shown that she can play with the big-money corrupt politics game. I even still hold a little bit of suspicion about Ted Kennedy, even though he has done A LOT of good things over the years. (Although, in accordance with point #1, I wouldn't support him as a Democratic nominee...)
5. Hillary is the worst of both worlds (kind of like Kerry was, but moreso): widely viewed as ultra-liberal, but voting often centrist and pro-big business.

Who else would I support instead of Hillary? Certainly not any of her male centrist insider colleagues, such as Joe Biden. Here are some of my preferred candidates, in descending order of desirability:
1. Dennis Kucinich (of course!)
2. Russ Feingold
3. John Edwards
4. Barack Obama
5. Al Gore (new version)

In light of Tess's recent blog posting on a female President, one could ask why I didn't list any women candidates here. A good question. I certainly strongly favor having a female President, and I don't think, as many do, that Democrats cannot nominate a woman (or Black, Hispanic, etc.) because of cross-over voting appeal demographics. If there is someone who is sufficiently an outsider to break up the corrupt political system that dominates Washington, then I would support her. I just can't think of any names that have been talked about at this point. I guess Hillary has so much in the spotlight that other potential women candidates have been left in the shadows. (But see my comment on Arch Words supporting Tess herself!)

Speaking of maverick outsiders, I want to add one more comment about John McCain. I know that ambivalent_maybe has some good reasons for placing hope in McCain as a vehicle for major change in our political structure. (As Ari Berman's article I cited in the original post suggests, one might wonder if he will still be able to make much of a difference after he makes promises to the GOP business community and the Christian Right in order to be chosen as the nominee.) But even if McCain does bring radical change to Washington, I wonder about the long-term implications. Is the Republican Party capable of becoming a party of the people that progressives want? I think the GOP is light years away from that. The Democrats, on the other hand, despite all of the big business boot-licking and wicked triangulating I have despised over the past few decades--which could mostly be summed up, by the way, as efforts to emulate the GOP--are still closer to being transformed into a party of the people. After some years of working in support of Third Party candidates (an option I do not completely repudiate for the future), I now believe that the best hope for medium-term political transformation in America is to stage a progressive (non-violent) revolution inside one of the major parties. I suppose I shouldn't rule out the GOP, but I just think the Democrats are far more likely to be an arena for such a movement. Electing a McCain would just muddy the waters beyond recognition. I would only support such a candidacy if he was truly a great departure from the GOP politics of the past. And from what I've seen, McCain is good on a few issues--and he cultivates a rhetoric of independence--but he is party-line conservative on most issues. All things considered, most of the Democrats I dislike are still better than McCain, even Hillary Clinton.

Anonymous said...

At least one good thing about McCain: he voted against drilling in Alaska, which christian-left probably appreciates as a much-needed Republican support for the environmentalists in this country. There are many other examples from his voting record, which support a notion that, unlike many Republicans, McCain is a decent man. I am very pessimistic about McCain's prospects as a nominee, precisely because he is too decent for the current Republican Party.

christian_left said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
christian_left said...

Arianna Huffington, a past admirer of McCain, is having second thoughts. See her telling observations about "McCain's" recent appearance on Meet the Press:

christian_left said...

And yet another ex-McCain supporter jumping off the bandwagon...