To McCain or Not to McCain

. . .that is the question, now isn’t it? 

Prior to Mitt Romney’s withdrawal from the race, you heard and read a lot of conservatives agonizing out loud about whether they could vote for McCain in the general election. I was one of them.

You need to know that I approach this decision by reminding myself of a few things.

First of all, the Republican Party and the conservative cause are not exactly one and the same. Yes, there is a lot of overlap, but what’s good for the party is not always necessarily good for the movement, and vice versa.

It’s possible that a McCain victory could be good for the Republicans in the short term and disastrous for the conservative cause (and for the country) in the long run, particularly where immigration is concerned. NRO’s John O’Sullivan made a brief down payment on that case the other day:

 Many conservatives believe that the key question in this election is: Are there to be two multiculturalist open-borders parties or one? If McCain’s election were to make the GOP fundamentally similar to the Democrats on immigration, bilingualism, racial preferences, and all the National Question issues, that would be a resounding historical defeat for conservatives.

On the other hand, I’m an incrementalist, not a purist, where the public policy and the culture wars are concerned. What I mean by that is, I think it’s stupid and self defeating to reject half a loaf when the alternative is no loaf at all. It’s a posture I’ve seen many times over the decades in the prolife movement.

I don’t know how many times I encountered “principled” prolife activists who stubbornly refused to support legislation that would have sharply reduced the number of abortions being performed because it contained some exceptions clauses. Anything that wasn’t pristine and uncontaminated by compromise had to be rejected.

They refused to accept incremental progress toward the goal. If they couldn’t have the whole thing, they’d settle for nothing.

Meanwhile, the dominant, practical wing of the Left was perfectly willing to advance their agenda one little bit at a time, nibbling away at the remnants of traditional values and free market-orientation in our laws and regulations.

Interestingly, the practical wing on the Left has lost power and the Democrats are increasingly dominated by the liberal counterpart of those pro-life purists. The radical, Daily Kos types have rejected incrementalism and tend to throw wall-eyed hissy fits if they don’t get exactly what they want. Thus the demonization of moderate Democrats like Joseph Lieberman. (Case in point: They’re running Cindy Sheehanagainst Nancy Pelosi because she’s too supportive of the war.)

So . . . Will conservatives stay home in large numbers in November? I don’t think so. First of all, only political junkies like myself and people like you who tend to visit this happy corner of the blogosphere are even aware of how noxious and obnoxious John McCain has actually been over the last 8 years. Most conservative voters just don’t pay that much attention (which explains the numbers of them voting for Huckabee.)

Second, there is the human nature factor.

Up until know, McCain has been the Republican favorite of the mainstream media and has received generally fawning coverage. But the moment the Dems figure out who their nominee is going to be, look for the press to turn on him with a vengeance.

As soon as Hillary, the liberal media, and bunch of pompous Hollywood know-nothings all start piling on McCain for the numerous conservative positions he does hold, we’re all going to start feeling defensive of him, just as we have for George W. Bush over the past seven years.

And I will be one of them. The psychology is irresistible.  

The moment Susan Sarandon launches a rant about how McCain the warmonger is going to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of more “innocent civilians” and Bill Maher starts calling him a fascist for wanting to withhold federal funds for abortion—John McCain is going to be suddenly transformed in our hearts into our cantankerous but sweet grandfather who’s being cruelly pecked at by demonic, shrieking harpies.

And after several months of that, all but the most extreme purists among us will happily pull the lever for McCain. But we’ll probably lose anyway.

Of course, here are two things that McCain could do to help us along on that journey and improve his odds of victory.

1. He can allay our concerns about open borders and amnesty. Saying, “I’ll secure the border first,” as he has done recently, is a start, but it isn’t good enough. We need secure borders AND beefed up enforcement here, with NO talk about an imminent amnesty so that a good number of the 20 million or so illegals already here will go ahead and self-deport. If they think all they have to do wait a bit because an amnesty is right around the corner, then they will be incentivized to stay put.

2. Pick a real-deal conservative as a running mate.The Choice of VP is a big deal, given McCain’s age and ideology. Picking Guiliani or Huckabee or someone like them will make it that much harder for us nose holders. I nominate Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn form Tennessee. She strong on every issue in which McCain is weak with Conservatives. And if the Dem nominee is Billary, having a woman on the ticket won’t hurt either.