John McCain's record is more liberal than conservative and the Republican Party's conservative base is now faced with a choice between backing the Arizona senator, despite his frequent lunges to the left, or taking a walk and helping a liberal Democrat win the presidency.
Former Republican conservative Senator Rick Santorum writes of the dilemma his fellow Republicans face in Thursday's Philadelphia Inquirer: "The Elephant in the Room -- The Conservative Jury Is Still Out on Backing McCain."
In the article Santorum asks, "Why are so many conservative Republicans upset about the inevitable nomination of Sen. John McCain, and what are we going to do about it?"
He goes on to itemize McCain's frequent forays off the conservative reservation, noting that they are the cause of conservative discontent. McCain, he writes "opposed pro-growth tax cuts and supported limits on political speech ... Pushed amnesty when it came to illegal immigration and half-measures when it came to interrogating terrorist ... Wants to close Guantanamo and allow the reimportation of prescription drugs into the United States."
Moreover, McCain not only parts company "with conservatives on these and other issues -- climate change, drilling for oil in the Alaskan hinterland, federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, international criminal courts, gun-show background checks -- he invariably adopts the rhetoric of the left and stridently leads the opposition."
In other words, McCain is a "moderate" Republican and should the GOP nominate him, it "wouldn't be the first time Republicans nominated a moderate to carry their banner in November," Santorum recalls. "In fact, from the Great Depression until 1980, Republican presidential candidates were almost exclusively moderates. So why is the prospect of one more Republican moderate atop the ticket causing many conservatives to talk about forming a third party or voting for Hillary Clinton, for goodness' sake?"
His answer: "Because the Republican Party is not the party it was into the 1970s, and neither is the Democratic Party, in spades."
Tracing the ideological history of both parties, Santorum concludes that today's GOP has become the conservative party while the Democratic party carries the liberal banner -- while in the past both parties were "all mixed bags ideologically. Ideological disagreements rarely split along partisan lines as they do today, because each party had robust 'conservative' and 'liberal' wings. In Washington, conservatives and liberals were divided on issues, but it was actually easier to find common ground because partisanship didn't work to exacerbate ideological divisions.
"All that changed after the 1960s," he explains. "The Democratic Party embraced the '60s Cultural Revolution, with its hostility to the military and traditional values. The GOP pursued Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy to court Southern conservatives away from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party became the party of George McGovern and Ted Kennedy. After some stiff resistance, the Republican Party became the party of Ronald Reagan. The upshot today: If you are a conservative, you are a Republican; if you're a liberal, you're a Democrat.
"The divide intensified due to the dramatic leftward shift of the Democratic Party. It has morphed into a made-in-the-USA Western European liberal party that seeks to grow the power of government, increase the public's reliance on Washington, wage class warfare, downplay national-security threats, relinquish our sovereignty, redefine the family, and substitute secular humanism for our society's Judeo-Christian underpinnings. As mainstream Democrats, both Clinton and Barack Obama see America as deeply flawed and needing massive 'change.' "
It is obvious to conservatives "just how consequential the 2008 election will be," he writes, arguing, "It could very well result in the election of a Democratic president who's prepared to reshape America culturally and economically and unprepared to defend the nation against our foreign enemies. Yet we see a presumptive Republican nominee who has too often joined the very people who seek to destroy and replace what we fight to conserve and improve. And so we wonder: Is this the man we can trust to take our case to the American people?"
Conservatives, he writes "want a leader who believes in his core that this race is a fight for the soul of America, her Judeo-Christian tradition, her sovereignty, her courage to defeat not appease or surrender to her enemies, her belief in capitalism and limited government, and her commitment to equality of opportunity, not result. We want a leader who's not interested in moving the country in the same direction as Clinton and Obama, only slower."
He asks if McCain is that leader, explaining that this is "a question that both he and conservatives will have to answer." Noting that his "doubts prompted me to oppose him and, finally, endorse Mitt Romney in the GOP primary," he observes that "general elections pose such questions in a different, more complex context, and the best answers come after a period of post-primary decompression.
"McCain's predecessor in the Senate, Barry Goldwater, wrote in the opening of The Conscience of a Conservative: 'The ancient and tested truths that guided our Republic through its early days will do equally well for us. The challenge to conservatives today is quite simply to demonstrate the bearing of a proven philosophy on the problems of our own time.'"
"Will John McCain now embrace those truths and that challenge?"
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