John McCain, Republican But Not Conservative

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The uproar that John McCain might not be palatable to conservatives, even though he is now building a substantial lead in the Republican primaries, has reminded me that conservatives and Republicans are not necessarily the same animal. Of course, conservatives have been railing about McCain’s left leaning for while, but I began to wonder, “What is this conservative element about? and “Why don’t they like McCain?”

Robert Novak, of the Washington Post, figures McCain needs to melt icy relations with conservatives by assuring them he will not raise taxes and would nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. On the other hand, David Kirkpatrick, of the New York Times, thinks that  conservatives are already warming up to McCain as the lesser of three evils (Obama or Clinton).

The bothersome parts of McCain’s positions seem to be that he

  • May or may not support extremely conservative justices 
  • Might want to raise taxes
  • Opposes continuing President Bush’s tax cuts
  • Opposes drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Preserve
  • Opposes a ban on same-sex marriage
  • Allegedly aided only the super-rich and weakened powerful Republican donors through his attempts at campaign financing

Besides those controversial elements, here is a comprehensive list of McCain on the issues, some of which contradict the positions under scrutiny.

One of the central and underlying issues seems to be the conservative desire to stack the Supreme Court with justices favorable to their beliefs. For example, Pat Robertson’s Christian  Broadcast Network offers complaints about a liberal-dominated court, including:

  • They banished prayer and the Bible from our public schools.
  • They raised a “right of privacy” banner, under which 43 million babies have been aborted.
  • They overthrew sodomy laws, opening the door to same-sex marriage.
  • They called for the removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses across the nation.

Conversely, Bill Scher at the Huffington Post rails against the conservative supreme court agenda,  lamenting the following:

  • Limiting the rights of taxpayers to challenge government spending on religious education
  • Let the EPA slide on the Endangered Species Act
  • Allowed corporations to spend lavishly on political ads

So what makes a conservative tick? Here some research that suggests a politically conservative mindset might be shaped by psychological factors such as the following:

  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

Food for thought.

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