What a pleasant surprise; the Associated Press has made note of John McCain’s political ideology.
The independent label sticks to John McCain because he antagonizes fellow Republicans and likes to work with Democrats.
But a different label applies to his actual record: conservative.
The likely Republican presidential nominee is much more conservative than voters appear to realize. McCain leans to the right on issue after issue, not just on the Iraq war but also on abortion, gay rights, gun control and other issues that matter to his party’s social conservatives.
The four-term Arizona senator, a longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, criticized the earlier handling of the war but has been a crucial ally in President Bush’s effort to increase and maintain U.S. forces in Iraq.
”People see him as a centrist. They don’t see him as a conservative,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. He added, “In fact, they put him pretty close to themselves, in terms of ideology, and put President Bush way to the right of themselves.”
The AP’s Libby Quaid noted, however, that this perception is disconnected from the votes and policy positions McCain actually embraces. (At least, that is, this McCain. After all of his flip-flopping and efforts to reinvent himself, I get the sense this is at least McCain 4.0.)
The next question, of course, is why McCain can vote like a conservative and be perceived as a moderate.
First, McCain used to be far less conservative than he is now. There’s a reason he considered leaving the Republican Party in 2001 and joining the Democratic ticket in 2004. He worked with Dems on a variety of left-leaning caucuses, including campaign-finance reform and a Patients’ Bill of Rights. McCain’s rise to national prominence came in 2000, when he ran away from the GOP’s far-right base. McCain came to believe, however, that he couldn’t win the Republican nomination in ‘08 as a moderate, so he conveniently went through an ideological transformation. The problem is that most Americans aren’t aware of the shift, and still perceive McCain as he was, not as he is.
Second, Dems too often don’t help. After having worked with McCain in the past, a few too many Dems still perceive him as reasonable and accommodating. Just two weeks ago, Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife, hailed McCain as a “moderate.” Not helpful.
And third, in general, the media has been anxious to help McCain out on this.
Since his rise to prominence on the national scene, McCain has been routinely referred to as a moderate — despite the fact that both his voting record and McCain himself attest that he is a reliable conservative. Take abortion. Over the years, McCain has voted for cutting federal funding of family planning clinics that counseled pregnant women on abortion and has supported a ban on late-term abortion. He has consistently received zero ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. In 2000, hard-line social conservative Gary Bauer actually endorsed McCain over Bush because he said McCain assured him he would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He has opposed extending the assault weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, pro-labor legislation, ergonomics rules, lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and benefits for gay partners. He has supported privatizing Social Security, conservative judicial appointments, the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools. On national security, McCain has consistently proven himself to be one of our most hawkish senators. Conservative groups such as the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition of America routinely give McCain high marks.
It’s why today’s AP item is such a treat. More, please.