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McCain’s Tough Message For The GOP

McCain’s presidential campaign Exploratory Committee site has video and transcripts of his speech to GOPAC yesterday. McCain was, as typical, brutally honest:

Hypocrisy, my friends, is the most obvious of political sins. And the people will punish it. We were elected to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private initiative. Then we lavished money, in a time of war, on thousands of projects of dubious, if any, public value. We responded to a problem facing some Americans by providing every retired American with a prescription drug benefit, and adding another trillion dollars to a bankrupt entitlement. We increased the size of government in the false hope that we could bribe the public into keeping us in office. And the people punished us. We lost our principles and our majority. And there is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first.

McCain is certainly right on that. The left is naturally spinning the results of the miderms as an ideological repudiation of conservatism: but that isn’t borne out by the evidence. What is borne out by the exit polls is that the American people are sick and tired of business as usual in Congress. The Republican Party used to be the party of limited government, but after too many years in the comfortable majority we lost those values.

I remain skeptical about McCain — in 2000 he showed that he didn’t the right mentality to make it in Presidential politics. In recent months, he’s shown a new side of himself. His speech at GOPAC was very well crafted, and very much in the style of Reagan. He still has a long climb ahead of him before conservatives can really get behind him, but he is right on the way in which the GOP has lost its direction. If 2008 is as much about clean government as 2006 was, McCain is unquestionably one of the strongest candidates on that issue.

If the GOP wants to win, they have to get back to their values. Electing Trent Lott as Minority Leader in the Senate and John Boehner in the House (although to a lesser extent with Boehner) was not the right way to do that. The GOP has to decide whether they want to lose at politics as usual or embrace the values that swept them into office in the first place. McCain is right, the GOP lost not because they were too conservative, but because they lost sight of the ideals of conservatism. The larger question at stake here is whether they’ll rediscover those values or fall further and further behind.

2 responses to “McCain’s Tough Message For The GOP”

  1. Seth says:

    It’s interesting that you use McCain–an avowedly moderate Republican–as a model for the rebirth of Reagan ‘conservatism.’ I think it shows how empty the ideas are: every Republican says they are for limited government, but if everyone from Pence to McCain can be for limited government, the idea of limited government as a set of policy initiatives is certainly quite fuzzy for the people that claim to champion it.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    It’s interesting that you use McCain–an avowedly moderate Republican–as a model for the rebirth of Reagan ‘conservatism.’

    1) McCain himself made plenty of references to Reagan. Read (or watch) his speech, and it’s quite obvious.
    2) McCain has always been a staunch fiscal conservative, especially when it comes to spending.

    I think it shows how empty the ideas are: every Republican says they are for limited government, but if everyone from Pence to McCain can be for limited government,

    “From Pence to McCain” is hardly a wide spectrum. Both are longstanding advocates of smaller government.

    the idea of limited government as a set of policy initiatives is certainly quite fuzzy for the people that claim to champion it.

    How so?