Conservative Anger Toward McCain a Misnomer

There is a lot of talk lately about conservatives being angry at McCain, and there are certainly many articles and blogs out there that are critical of McCain. But it seems to me that “anger” at McCain is kind of a misnomer, or at least only a symptom of the underlying issue.

By definition, conservatives are “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.” Although there are several different conservative factions that emphasize different issues, the general conservative agenda typically involves such things as the following:

  • Conservative judicial appointments
  • A ban on federal funding for stem-cell research
  • A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage
  • Tax reduction and smaller government
  • More emphasis on free markets
  • More tax cuts
  • Private accounts as part of Social Security
  • Oil exploration in Alaska, to ease dependence on foreign oil
  • Military build up and vigorousness abroad
  • Advocating the needs of business, often at the expense of the environment
  • Advocating school curriculum that doesn’t teach evolution or also teaches creationism

A number of these items are likely to suffer if McCain becomes President. So isn’t it really the case that the anger is more about the loss of power than about McCain himself? By that, I mean that McCain’s views have long been known, well before the primaries. So what has he done “wrong” that merits anger? McCain is just the personification of that threat.

Columnist Charles Krautheimer argues that Bush should be blamed, because Bush’s policies set the stage for McCain by establishing a “compassionate” variant of conservativism. Without excusing Bush, I doubt that is the reason. For one, the “Bush improved security argument” doesn’t really hold up. Rather, it seems more likely that, despite the purist grievances against him, Bush is largely viewed by the rest of the country as a conservative, and thus his failures also represent failures of conservatism.  (For a poignant perspective of how many people probably feel, see the Implied Observer.)  What we are seeing is the reaction to the perceived failings of conservatism, both within and without the Republican party. And then we are seeing the reactions of conservatives to change, which they are by nature against.


  1. Fitzhugh on February 24, 2010 at 4:24 am

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