AZ GOP Censures McCain
A slap on the wrist underscores the bottom-up nature of US parties.
The Arizona Republican Party formally censured Sen. John McCain on Saturday, citing a voting record they say is insufficiently conservative.
The resolution to censure McCain was approved by a voice-vote during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe, state party spokesman Tim Sifert said. It needed signatures from at least 20 percent of state committee members to reach the floor for debate.
Sifert said no further action was expected.
According to the resolution, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee has campaigned as a conservative but has lent his support to issues “associated with liberal Democrats,” such as immigration reform and to funding the law sometimes known as Obamacare.
This is interesting because it is (I am pretty sure) a highly unusual (if not unique) attempt by local party elites to try and assert influence over its party label/office holders. But, of course, as attempts go it it pretty anemic. Indeed, it ultimately underscores that lack of any kind of control at all that party elites have over candidates.
Specifically note the following:
1. This has no effect on McCain’s ability to use the label “Republican.”
2. It is in no way affects his membership in the party.
3. It has no influence over any re-nomination that McCain might pursue, should he decide to seek office again after his current term expires in 2016.
4. It certainly does not affect (or even influence) his standing with the Senate GOP conference.
This is interesting as we seek to understand US party dynamics and it is a reminder of the bottom-up, non-hierarchical nature of parties in the US (in contrast to, for example, most of the rest of the world). Ours is very much a candidate-centric party system that is solidified by primaries as the nominating mechanism (i.e., the only gatekeepers who can deny a candidate the usage of the party label are primary voters).
Indeed, if McCain does run for office again, the following statement will be empirically tested:
Timothy Schwartz, the Legislative District 30 Republican chairman who helped write the resolution, said the censure showed that McCain was losing support from his own party.
Such a test, by the way, would underscore who “his own party” really is: party elites, or primary voters. Odds are such a test would demonstrate that “the party” is defined by the primary voters. I look forward to the test, because I find this all quite interesting (indeed, increasingly the role played by primaries in the US system has been of great academic interest to me).
My observations are, by the way, and not about normative judgments. I do find it worth noting that a state party would behave this way, as it would seem to be indicative of the current age of polarized, ideological parties and it raises questions. Will parties start to seek more control over their candidates? We have, for example, seen some of this in Virginia with the state Republicans using conventions to choose some of its recent candidates.
Party behavior matters, as it influences legislative behavior, and ultimately, public policy.
There is, of course, a whole other discussion of whether McCain is, in fact, a deviant vis-a-vis his party, ideologically speaking. At a minimum it is interesting to note that the AZ GOP find immigration reform and voting to fund lase already passed to be too “liberal.”
(Gracias to MSS for the e-mail hat tip).