Monday, February 19, 2007

The establishmentarian extremism of a would-be GOP frontrunner

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John McCain may be running a different sort of campaign looking ahead to 2008 than he did back in the lead-up to the 2000 election, with establishmentarian gravitas replacing anti-establishmentarian rebelliousness, not least because of Iraq, but his efforts to present himself as a partisan worthy of the nomination as opposed to a maverick running against the party line, and particularly his efforts to ingratiate himself with the social conservative base that dominates the primaries and that he will need to have on his side if he hopes to win the nomination, seem to have turned him into an extremist, or at least into a panderer to extremists.

He came out against same-sex marriage before last November's midterms, and then against abortion thereafter, and now he has repeated his opposition to Roe v. Wade and his desire to have it overturned: "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned," he said yesterday in South Carolina, a key early primary state. And just to show he's serious, he pandered to the base on judicial nominations, too, saying he would, as president, appoint judges who "strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench," that is, parsing the fundamentalist lingo, activist, ideological conservative judges who do not respect established law and who wish to mold America according to their own fundamentalist, and largely un-American, vision.

Such is the McCain of 2007.

He's learned his lessons. Republicans don't like mavericks. And Republican primary voters don't like their candidates anywhere near the "middle". He's intent on winning, it seems, and to that end he'll do and say whatever it takes. At least in campaign speech, his shift to the extreme right on the issues that matter most to the base is quite apparent.

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