John A. Tures: The right-wing feeding fenzy claims McCain

February 7, 2014 

Warning: this column contains a few biased opinions. But at least some of the arguments are backed by empirical evidence.

The news came that the Arizona Republican Party has censured Senator John McCain. Or, more accurately, "the resolution to censure McCain was approved by a voice-vote during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe, state party spokesman Tim Sifert said," according to Terry Tang with the Associated Press. "It needed signatures from at least 20 percent of state committee members to reach the floor for debate."

If this were the America of post-World War II, McCain would have been president, elected in 2000. As it was, his small campaign finished second in the primaries on a shoestring budget.

His victory in the 2008 GOP primaries was nothing short of amazing. Despite the baggage of George W. Bush's historically low approval ratings, polls show he gave Barack Obama a real run for his money, despite having a lot less of it. Only his pick of Sarah Palin and the Great Recession cost him the election. Yet he ran one of the classiest campaigns, defying critics when some in the media expected rampant racism.

If you go to the American Conservative Union (http://conservative.org/), you can find that they're a really conservative bunch, as the name implies. And their rating system finds that John McCain is 92 percent conservative, according to their rankings. Moreover, his lifetime score is 82.84.

Former Arizona Senator John Kyl, at least, has Senator McCain's back. He called the censure decision "wacky" and insisted that McCain's voting record was "very conservative," in Tang's article. The ACU gave Kyl a perfect voting score, by the way.

So what did Senator McCain do that was so unforgivable as to receive a Tea Party Primary challenge? He would often reach across party aisles on matters that he felt were in the best interest of this country.

He sought to make the CIA and their contractors follow the same rules as the U.S. Army when it came to torture. He sought to preserve the judicial filibuster, and got several Bush court appointees confirmed. And he reached across party aisles with Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold to try and reduce the influence of campaign cash.

This work on campaign finance reform caught the attention of a young, idealistic, sometimes naïve, politically independent Senate intern from Feingold's office, making him a fan, and eventually leading him to signing up with the Republican Party in Delaware several years later.

That intern was me.

Sen. McCain is the kind of person who brought independents, and even some moderate Democrats, into the Republican Party, building the party the way his close ally from the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, did. And now he's been censured by his own state party.

One can only wonder what that means for the new powers in the GOP, ever interested in shrinking the party's appeal.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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