Thursday, September 04, 2008
Has McCain Changed His Tune, or Can We Still Call Him, "The Maverick"?
Needless to say, Conservatives have been absolutely unified and indeed electrified by the addition of Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket. I watched her speech and was impressed by how real she is when speaking to the American people, and I think this is primarily her appeal. Add to that what seems like a genuine conservative streak, a willingness to challenge the "status-quo" and the novelty of being a female and you end up with someone who has turned the McCain campaign completely around.
This speaks to McCain's political savvy and his willingness to surprise us; before his V.P. pick was official, I am of the impression that many secretly wished he would choose Palin, but publicly predicted otherwise because they weren't sure he had it in him. The consensus now seems to be that McCain has cemented his status as a "Maverick" by his choice of V.P., and maybe that is true.
Let me start by saying my motive here is not to rain on the veritable "Love Fest" that characterizes the Republican party as of the last 7 days. Alot of long-time conservatives are saying they haven't seen the party this energized since the early 90's, and others are even reminded of the conservative revolution brought by Reagan. This is good for politics; to have people passionately involved in the process, and having discussions about why their candidate is better. I believe firmly that people being informed and invested in the political process can only result in good for the country. This is why our political system works as it does, because through dissent and debate, and sharing information (true information) the best candidate wins.
A month ago it was not clear to me which candidate would best represent me. I was, and still am, certain that Obama's "big government" socialist utopian vision for America was completely against my sensibilities as a believer in a constitutional form of government. The men who founded this Republic were wise and knew how to best strike a balance between governing a nation while protecting the liberties of those they governed, and I think that formula can still work today. That said, I was as depressed as anyone to have the choices we had for President.
Every time the word "Maverick" is used to describe to McCain I get a little nervous, as I am reminded of what made him a maverick to begin with. Through his years in the Senate, he earned the reputation as the Republican who was willing to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats to get legislation passed. Now, I don't share the same distaste for bi-partisanship as some, and under the circumstances, it is the only way conservatives in Washington can get things done. As long as it is ultimately good for the country, I don't care who authors legislation. But, this was the main gripe conservatives had about McCain when he pulled ahead as the Republican nominee, and he was painted as a "traitor" by many not only for working with Democrats but more specifically for legislation that was promoted by him that was decidedly unrepresentative of traditional conservative values.
While I am as enchanted as the next person by Sarah Palin, as a person who analyzes EVERYTHING (maybe too much, my wife can tell you), I have to ask the question: Has John McCain changed since the time, not long ago, when his base was begrudgingly vowing to "hold their noses" and pull the lever for the "not-quite-conservative" Republican candidate for President?
Sarah Palin's conservative values are evident in her record in public life and in what is apparent about her personal life, but I can't say the same thing about McCain.
My wife and I discuss politics often, and recently she asked the question, "People write speeches for politicians, and they always say what is necessary to get elected: How do we know what they are really about?" This is not just a good question, it is THE question. When Obama, the young Senator from Illinois, announced his intent to campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, the only way we could measure his ability to act as President was by looking at his record. And indeed the Right has constantly criticized the Democratic nominee on the grounds that his record was not only short, but what record there is doesn't amount to much that proves he is ready for the job. It is painfully obvious that Democrats have caught "Obama Fever" for the same reason they were behind Kerry; because they think Obama can win.
What has always separated conservatives and liberals is principle. When those on the left were rooting for Kerry because they didn't want another Bush term, we accused them of running a "negative campaign" and thought less of them because they had no real reason for supporting John Kerry except political expediency and fear of the alternative. I frowned and shook my head when I saw bumper stickers urging people to vote Kerry because "A Vote for Kerry is a Vote Against Bush". How pathetic.
If we are honest, fair, and genuinely desire the best representation, we are obligated to hold McCain to the same scrutiny as we hold his opponent to. So we are again forced to step back and go beyond the McCain of late and use his record to get a true measure of the man who desires to be our President. And, we have an ethical obligation not to be accused of the same acts we have condemned others for.
I am glad at least for the political stir Palin has caused and for the wind being knocked out of the Obama campaign, but for me, the jury is still out on whether the McCain/Palin ticket is the best representation of my values as a Christian conservative. Palin is an exciting choice for VP, but we need to bear in mind she is not running for President, McCain is.