Monday, July 7, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

Everybody thought that the convention to watch would be the Democrats in Denver, rioting in the streets over Hillary Clinton’s delegates and the Limbaugh-driven instigators trying to re-create Chicago in 1968. But it turns out that the fireworks may be in St. Paul.

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September’s Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party’s official declaration of principles.

McCain has not yet signaled the changes he plans to make in the GOP platform, but many conservatives say they fear wholesale revisions could emerge as candidate McCain seeks to put his stamp on a document that currently reflects the policies and principles of President Bush.

“There is just no way that you can avoid anticipating what is going to come. Everyone is aware that McCain is different on these issues,” said Jessica Echard, executive director of the conservative Eagle Forum. “We’re all kind of waiting with anticipation because we just don’t know how he’s going to thread this needle.”

The problem is that the entire GOP platform is a paean to the Bush administration, and John McCain is trying desperately to point out the one or two things where he differs from the president and the rest of the party, much to the annoyance of the True Believers.

McCain is “really out of step with the strong majority of his party,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which opposes McCain’s positions on climate change. “He might get what he wants. And he might get a change. But I don’t think it’s going to sit well with a lot of Republicans.”


Ebell said McCain should be careful as he and his allies seek to change the platform to reflect his political sensibilities.

“He attracts a lot of votes in the middle — independents and moderates,” Ebell said. But “if he pushes on each one of these issues — campaign finance, immigration, or global warming and energy issues — he’s likely to keep a lot of people at home on Election Day.”

So the only way to put lipstick on this pig is for Mr. McCain to actually have this fight with the right wing (see below) and prove that he’s really the maverick that he claims to be and therefore appeal to the moderates and independents. The irony is that the role model for this tactic was Bill Clinton in 1992.