by Matthew A. Roberts
as seen in National Ledger
Over the past three decades, America in some respects has moved slightly to the Right. Although conservatives have not yet won the wars on political correctness, education, and culture, Americans nevertheless are now more skeptical than they were thirty years ago of big government, high taxes, entitlements, judicial activism and secularism. In these areas, conservatives have proven most successful. The word "liberal" has become a bad word in most states, and consequently many leftists hesitate to label themselves as leftists.
In many states it now rings popular to call oneself a conservative, even if one truly resembles a liberal. As with any popular movement, dilution occurs, opportunists blow with the wind, and pretenders abound. John McCain is one of these pretenders. He is a leftist in disguise, using his popularity and charisma to masque his liberal leanings. In reality, McCain resides as far to the Left as John Kerry. Anyone who thinks otherwise deludes himself.
McCain has most feigned conservatism in his militarism. McCain, a Vietnam veteran, is hawkish and patriotic. These attributes support his political stump. As long as he can play the veteran card and remain pro-war, he can downplay all his other shortcomings. Appearing hawkish, however, does not necessarily constitute conservatism. (Recent history shows that leftists can be militaristic too: Stalin, Mao, Castro). Military force always will remain crucial in many cases, but willingness to use it does not incontrovertibly make one a conservative.
And when one gets beyond McCain's bellicism, his true liberal character crops up. Outside martial matters, McCain sides with the American Left on most key issues. The greatest irony of McCain's masquerade is that he packages himself as a principled conservative, one with character, who rises above partisan politics. In reality, however, he is as disingenuous as the Clintons and presently bends whichever the way the wind blows to bolster himself for 2008. Analyze him issue by issue.
First, regarding religion, McCain looms as no lover of Christians. Recall his comments about key religious leaders in 2000, calling them "agents of intolerance." And McCain's vitriolic vilification of Christians was not limited to a single occurrence, for he later said, "I must not and will not retract anything that I said in that speech at Virginia Beach. It was carefully crafted, it was carefully thought out." (Hardball, 3/1/00). More recently, however, McCain, positioning himself for 2008, has repackaged himself as pro-Christian, lauding key religious leaders and duping the devout. (Is this not as reptilian as Bill Clinton's waffling?)
Second, on the issue of gay marriage, in 2005 McCain opposed a federal gay-marriage ban (Los Angeles Times, 1/25/ and 3/8). Now, however, likely realizing that most Americans think otherwise, McCain says he supports a gay-marriage ban (Meet the Press, 4/2/06). Which is it? Given his penchant for progressive politics, we can only assume the former.
Then, regarding abortion, McCain most certainly is pro-choice. In the San Francisco Chronicle (8/20/99) McCain sided with the pro-abortion camp, suggesting that overturning Roe v. Wade would lead to illegal abortions. Realizing, however, that he could not inveigle the GOP nomination with such views, McCain more recently has resold himself as pro-life, even saying he would support the South Dakota ban on abortions. What are Americans to believe? He either is pro-choice or lacks any real conviction on the subject.
Furthermore, regarding campaign-finance reform, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act is perhaps one of the more left-wing acts of Congress in the past twenty years. As recently exposed by Brian C. Anderson, "The Plot to Shush Rush and O'Reilly" in City Journal, McCain-Feingold (which passed with overwhelming Democrat support) is a convenient contrivance to silence conservatives. As noted by a whole host of commentators (George Will, Jonathan Rauch, and even Justice Clarence Thomas), this act poses blatant restrictions on political speech. It especially affects AM Radio and political internet blogs -- the only two spheres of popular media where conservatives can truly compete. Critics remain divided why McCain supported a dictate so damaging to conservatives. Was it perhaps so that he could silence many on the Right whom he laconically loathes?
Last, but not least, McCain's liberal tendencies show in the immigration debate. McCain has proven to be farther Left on the immigration issue than even many Liberals. At the very basis of most conservative thought is the idea of law and order, which are essential for the continuity of society. Bypassing tradition and sanity, and slapping in the face those who have come here legally, McCain has sought to sweep aside law and order to engage in the unbecoming business of pandering to ethnicities. (Isn't this the dominion of Democrats?) McCain's radical views on immigration threaten numerous components of the wellbeing of the United States and, more generally, Western Civilization: national security, standards of living, and cultural homogeneity, to name a few. McCain has courted the cheap-labor lobby for some fast cash for 2008 and now attempts to convert the U.S. into a third-world country.
McCain's liberal laundry list goes on and on. Senator Lindsey Graham, another liberal in disguise, comments correctly that the present is a defining moment for the Republican Party, although his underlying analysis is wrong. The choice is between a party of McCain's vision, a party indistinguishable from the Democratic Party, or a party that at least maintains a modicum of conservatism. If McCain loses, hopefully he will depart for the Democratic Party (where he belongs); but if he wins, expect to see a mass exodus of conservative voters from the GOP, probably over to a third party.
Matthew A. Roberts is a freelance columnist and maintains a weblog at http://www.conservatoroccidentalis.com