Curing McCain Derangement Syndrome

McCain Derangement Syndrome Photo While there are plenty of cases of McCain Derangement Syndrome, the irrational belief by conservatives that John McCain is to the left of Teddy Kennedy, evidence is mounting that the malady can be treated by a steady dose of reflection about the prospect of President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Romney supporter Dr. Rusty Shackleford describes the symptoms:

What drives MDS? Some people are just so partisan and ideologically driven, that you think of John McCain as a traitor. You’re blinded by your outrage that he’s betrayed conservatism, or that he has the audacity to say nice things about Democrats. You just can’t see the truth because you can’t see past McCain’s “betrayal”.

John Cole, who has himself fallen out with the Bush-Cheney Republican Party, is befuddled by the phenomenon — especially when Mitt Romney is the “conservative” around whom the infected are rallying:

For as long as I can remember, McCain has been anti-abortion, for fiscal conservatism and balanced budgets and against wasteful spending, and an avowed and committed hawk and ardent military supporter. By my count, that is, or at least used to be, the trinity for the modern GOP. Those were the issues that, at a glance, defined conservatism, and McCain was on the “right” side of every one of them. Mitt Romney, not so much.

McCain Derangement Syndrome - McCain Mutiny Movie Poster Jim Henley, who has not claimed to be a Republican, responds that modern conservatism seems to have replaced the Reagan-era trinity with “support for torture; opposition to non-Anglo immigration; [and] hatred of campaign finance reform.”

While there’s no doubt that these issues serve as a litmus test for some, so that nonsense like we “ought to double Guantanamo” or implausible scenarios for rounding up millions of illegal aliens get rousing applause, I continue to believe the reaction to McCain is more visceral than substantive. McCain’s cozy relations with the hated Librul Media and his obvious enjoyment at being the “maverick” who poked Republicans in the eyes with sharp sticks didn’t win him many friends in the base.

I think he’s horribly wrong on campaign finance, find his seeming antipathy to big business troubling, and think he’s too found of Big Government solutions to problems. On the other hand, he’s stood for principle against ambition on the war, on torture, on Rumsfeld, and on immigration.

He didn’t start out the race as my preferred candidate and he’s never going to be my ideal president. He is, however, an honorable patriot who I trust to put the best interests of the country first. And he is, without any question, the most conservative person who can realistically take the oath of office next January 20.

Abe Greenwald contends that,

The rabid strain of anti-McCain sentiment among media conservatives is, in fact, a betrayal of one of the most important principles of conservatism itself: the willingness to work with the concrete facts of a situation. The great strength of a politically conservative mindset is that it’s predicated on seeing the world as it is.

McCain Derangement Syndrome - Anybody But McCain In a similar vein, Rachel Lucas (via Glenn Reynolds) writes an amusing rant that defies unredacted excerpting on a family blog. Here’s a G-rated taste:

I know some say that they’d rather “have the country ruined” by a real liberal than by a RINO. You know what that sounds like? Something you’d read on DailyKos.

Quite right. Indeed, quite a few commenters on even the more intellectual Democrat-leaning blogs are saying they will sit out the election if Hillary Clinton, rather than Saint Obama, gets the nomination.

My guess is that, once people get used to the idea that McCain and Clinton are the only real choices this cycle, people will settle down and make a sober choice. For conservative and liberal ideologues, certainly, it should be an easy one.

Neither Clinton nor McCain are likely to spark the intense enthusiasm that an Obama or a Reagan would engender. Some young people brought into the fold by excitement over Obama or Ron Paul will undoubtedly be demoralized and stay home; then again, that’s what they’d have been expected to do.

The rest of us will muddle on to the polling place and realize that we’re choosing a president, not a messiah. Which, really, isn’t such a bad thing.

Images: Rick Roberts, New Republican Party Blog, and Moonbattery via Google.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Political Theory, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. howard says:

    Mccain claims he is the best on national security.
    Well where was he while our nation was being overrun by illegals. He doesn’t seem very good on this issue of homeland security. He was well aware of our borders being overrun and he has done nothing except to bring up amnesty time and time again. Another concern is this summer when the amnesty bill was stopped, people demanded the government to enforce the laws, Mccain hears “secure the border first”, where did he hear that, perhaps voices in his head? Mccain is going to claim secure the border and at the same time try to sneak amnesty in, maybe he gets free law care, who knows.

  2. Brainster says:

    I’ve been comparing MDS to the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

    I think once the magnitude of McCain’s win on Tuesday sinks in, we’ll at least see people moving on from Denial. So far that’s been expressed rather well by Hugh Hewitt, who keeps trumpeting that Mitt Romney’s not all that far behind in the delegate count. When Mitt’s down by several hundred that will cease to be an arguable position.

    The big turnaround will happen the minute McCain can start sticking his thumb in Hillary’s eye; at that point the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” bit will kick in.

    Coulter, as deranged as she is, is actually pretty far along the process; she’s at the depression stage.

  3. Troy says:

    The is no cure for McCain’s derangement syndrome.

    To think we wasted an entire year for Clinton vs McDole Part II.

    There is now no question that American democracy is a farce, and we are trying to spread this stupidity around the globe? LMAO

  4. William d'Inger says:

    There is now no question that American democracy is a farce

    It’s so easy to complain, but it solves nothing. If you know some place that does it better, I’d like to hear about it (along with your explanation of why you don’t live there). On the upside, maybe you won’t vote which will make my vote worth a tiny bit more.

  5. capital L says:

    “There is now no question that American democracy is a farce”

    Where do you come up with this? Are you able to function on a day to day basis, or do you honestly worry that the sky is falling?

    As for the post: Hear hear!

  6. just me says:

    I think it is foolish to say you will campaign for Hillary or other nonsense, if McCain wins the nomination.

    No matter how you slice it McCain is and always will be much more conservative than Hillary or Obama.

    I don’t grasp this way of thinking. I am not sure if there is a cure for it, but I figure like a cold all this one will take is time. There will still be some who won’t vote for him, but I bet many who are tearing their clothes in grief will hold their noses and vote McCain come November if he is on the ticket.

  7. Maybe some of us conservatives are just tired. It goes something like this:

    “America, you want National Health Care? Fine, I am tired of arguing against it. Go at it. Don’t complain to me after. You want to pull out of the Middle East? Fine, do it. And you live with the consequences. You want protectionism and higher taxes? Okay, I am tired of fighting.”

    Poll after poll is saying all of the above. Fine, America, go destroy yourself. Let Hillary or Obama win.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Easy to see why todays “conservatives” hate McCain, he is an acutal war hero, not a tough talking couch potato. Just look at how the GOP has treated Chuck Hegel, another war hero. He damn near got run out of DC on a rail…