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Saturday, November 15, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN’s Political Ticker: CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - GOP senator: McCain betrayed Republican principles

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on Friday became one of the first high-profile Republicans to publicly criticize John McCain following his electoral defeat, blaming the Arizona senator for betraying conservative principles in his quest for the White House.

The conservative senator, speaking to a group of GOP officials gathered in Myrtle Beach at a conference on the future of the Republican Party, described how the party had strayed from its own “brand,” which, according to DeMint, should represent freedom, religious-based values and limited government.

The problem with such a critique, however, is that McCain didn’t run (despite ubiquity of the words) a “maverick” or even a truly “reform”-based campaign. He ran a fairly traditional Republican campaign, emphasizing things like tax cuts, waste-cutting and national security. Further, by selecting Palin he sent a very strong signal to the social conservatives on issues like abortion. Further, he stepped back from his own past positions on things like immigration reform and domestic drilling. So, really, McCain ran to the right, so to speak, or, at least, towards the core conservative positions for the purposes of the general election. The notion that McCain’s campaign was some sort of moderate-fest is problematic if one looks at the facts.

As such, DeMint is exemplifying the problem that the Traditionalists/”not conservative enough” wing of the GOP when he says things like:

“McCain, who is proponent of campaign finance reform that weakened party organizations and basically put George Soros in the driver’s seat,” DeMint said. “His proposal for amnesty for illegals. His support of global warming, cap-and-trade programs that will put another burden on our economy. And of course, his embrace of the bailout right before the election was probably the nail in our coffin this last election. And he has been an opponent of drilling in ANWR, at a time when energy is so important. It really didn’t fit the label, but he was our package.”

I continue to maintain, however, that the issues is not so simple as one of moderate v. conservative, but is a more complex one of redefining what “conservative” itself means in the current era. Until that happens, minority status is the likely result.

DeMint’s criticisms go beyond McCain:

Bush and Stevens, he said, had corrupted the party brand by expanding the size of government and engaging in wasteful government spending. Had Republicans not strayed from their core beliefs in recent years, DeMint argued, the election results might have been different.

“Americans do prefer a traditional conservative government,” he said. “They just did not believe Republicans were going to give it to them.”

The critique of Bush has some merit, although the problem was hardly his alone–it isn’t as if when the Republicans controlled Congress that they tried to stem the tide of Bush’s spending, indeed, quite the contrary. Certainly Stevens is a case in point of too much power in the hands of one politician over a very long time.

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One Response to “More from the “Not Conservative Enough” Faction”

  1. nevrdull Says:

    i wonder which “traditional conservative government” he’s referring to? has there been any major [conservative] policy program past the contract with america? at first glance i’d say no. i think you’re absolutely right that there needs to be a recalibration of the conservative mind.

    PS:
    DeMint: “His[McCain's] support of global warming(..)” i think he meant it the other way around..

    PPS:
    why haven’t we heard anything from sen. inhofe yet? he always struck me as being a conservative’s conservative (regarding evolution, global warming, energy policy, etc.)


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