Conservatives Against McCain
Judging by the enemies he’s making, I’m liking John McCain more with each passing day.
Ann Coulter says she’d “campaign for” Hillary Clinton, who she thinks “is more conservative.”
Meanwhile, Glenn Beck is railing against “Juan McCain” for his outreach to Hispanics.
Thankfully, this over-the-top stuff is being rejected by most conservatives.
RedState‘s Leon H Wolf warns commenters that they may “complain vociferously about McCain, Bush, or anyone else’s position on immigration” but they will be banned from the site if they do so in racist terms.
Even Jonah Goldberg, hardly the voice of rational discourse while hawking a book about how American liberals are Fascists, thinks “the notion that, variously, conservatism, the country or the party are doomed if he’s the nominee or the president is pretty absurd.”
Moreover, he makes an interesting point:
I think both the GOP and the conservative movement could benefit from a slightly more adversarial relationship. George W. Bush moved the party leftward and/or damaged the image of the GOP in many respects precisely because he was given the benefit of the doubt by conservatives who saw him as “one of us.” It’s not obvious to me that having a more transactional relationship with a Republican president would be altogether bad for the country, the party or the conservative movement.
As I’ve noted many times before, the mainstream of both major American parties would fit comfortably within the British Conservative Party. Indeed, within its right wing. So, the choice between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, if it comes to that, isn’t one between extremes. Contra Victor David Hanson, the “gulf” between them is hardly “Grand-Canyon like.”
That’s not to say, however, that the election is unimportant or that there are not significant differences. Clinton isn’t Barack Obama, the most liberal senator in a recent National Journal survey, but she is #16. The full chart apparently is available only to subscribers, so I can’t find a comparable score for McCain. We do know, however, that his lifetime conservative rating using the same index is 71.8. This compares favorably with Tom Tancredo, a darling of the Borders Are Our Only Issue conservatives, who rates 75.9.
Additionally, from a conservative perspective, there’s another advantage to voting for McCain: You know that he actually agrees with you on the issues where he says he agrees with you. Whether he’s 71.8 percent conservative or 82.6 (American Conservative Union), it’s hard to accuse him of pandering. With Clinton, conversely, one can be excused for wondering if she’s just positioning herself for maximum political benefit.
UPDATE (Alex Knapp): Regarding the National Journal survey naming Obama “the most liberal Democrat”, Steve Benen has an excellent post explaining exactly why this is a ridiculous finding (since I don’t think anyone seriously thinks that Obama is more liberal than, say, Russ Feingold):
What’s more, Obama was the 16th most liberal senator in 2005, and the 10th most liberal in 2006, before racing to the front of the pack in 2007. National Journal suggests this has something to do with Obama moving to the left to curry favor with Democratic primary voters.
But there’s a more logical explanation: Obama missed a whole lot of votes in 2007 — he’s been on the campaign trail — but was on the floor for many of the biggest, most consequential votes. In nearly every instance, he voted with the party. And with that, voila! The most liberal senator in America.
Except that’s not much of a standard. The rankings use an amorphous meaning of the word “liberal,” and the percentage doesn’t take missed votes into account at all (which also helps explain why Kerry nabbed the top spot four years ago)
Brian Beutler further elaborates:
Yes, passion is hard to gauge. But instead of trying (by, say, logging hours spent speaking at hearings, from the chamber, etc., and assigning those a value to be paired with voting records) National Journal relies instead on a weird system by which a senator who takes the “liberal” position 95 times out of 100 is somehow less liberal than his colleague who takes the liberal position 48 times out of 50.
Most of these types of “voting guides” are dubious, and tend to say more about the groups promoting them than they do about the politicians they are ostensibly describing.
UPDATE (James Joyner): Fair point on the various rating scales. There are all manner of problems — What counts as “conservative” vice “liberal”? What to do with missed votes? — but they have the advantage of being independent measures. National Journal or ACU or whathaveyou have a system in place and it serves as a means of comparison. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it’s preferable than basing one’s view on two or three controversial votes, which is what campaigns seem to focus on.
UPDATE II (James Joyner): Sociologist Kieran Healy endorses Lewis and Poole’s Optimal Classification ranking as a better alternative. By this measure, Obama is merely the 21st most liberal senator and Clinton is 25th. McCain is 94th.