Wednesday, April 17, 2002
We're McCainiacs, and We're Zany to the Max-A lot of the blognoscenti, including Mickey Kaus, Orrin Judd and Ben Domenesh and have chimed in on a piece by Jonathan Chait's backing a McCain switchover to the
Dark Side Democratic Party. This boomlet is a case of what one of my PoliSci profs at CMU would call "Jack Daniels Talk"- shooting the bull on the back porch with a cold beverage of choice playing out scenarios with a chance of happening that rounds to zero to four decimal places.
McCain's not a good fit as a Democrat; he's a populist with a slight right-of-center tilt on balance. There's a long tradition, especially in fly-over country, of populists of either party being for the little guy and against the big corporations. While his backers tend to equate McCain to Teddy Roosevelt, another guy from the turn of the last century, William Jennings Byrant, comes to mind as a better analogy. The "prairie populist" world-view that Bryant represented is more egalitarian than it is socialist, seeing the small businessman and the farmer as honorable outlets for industriousness, but is distrustful of concentration of power, either via government or big business. The stock option taxation, CFR and anti-HMO proposals are populist whacks at big business power.
Despite his run-ins with more orthodox Republicans in the last year, he's far too conservative to be nominated by the Democratic Party as we know it. I'll beg to differ with Orrin Judd in that he's not on board with the majority of Democratic issues. If he were to kowtow to the minions of the Democratic party sufficiently to be nominated, his credibility would be shot. His patriotism would run afoul of the anti-war, Blame America First crowd. His "gaydar" cracks will make him persona non grata with the pink triangle crowd. He's too much the war hero to have feminists comfortable with him and hasn't done much for unions other than CFR. He hasn't come close to playing along with identity politics, so he's not going to be slow dancing with Al Sharpton anytime soon.
The only way McCain could get the Democratic nomination, assuming he doesn't do more liberal flip-flops, is if the liberal vote is split two or more ways and he can win the New Democrat vote and gain a 35-40% plurality. I don't see him getting a majority of the Democratic primary vote as the party is presently constituted. He would have to bring the left wing of the Republican party over with him, with massive party registration switches enabling him to get a majority in the reconstituted Democratic Party. McCain's a good politician, but he's not so good that he could bring the 15-20% of the registered Republicans over with him to pull off the takeover of the Democratic party.
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