All over the country, Democrats, liberals, progressive reformers and political independents are gearing up to vote in their states' primary elections for president of the United States. Florida's March 14 "presidential preference primary" is fast approaching, and here, as in the rest of the nation, forward-thinking citizens are preparing to select the candidate whose vision and values match their own.
Will they pull the lever for Al Gore, darling of the environmentalists and friend of organized labor? Or will they choose Bill Bradley, he of the bold plans for massive spending on education and universal health insurance? Maybe they are awaiting the hoped-for insurgency of the Green Party's Ralph Nader, champion of the consumer and scourge of corporate interests. Or perhaps they are even yearning for the true outsider polemics of Jesse Ventura, late of the Reform (and now, perhaps, of the nascent Independence) Party. But no. It's not turning out that way.
Amazingly, thousands of voters who would gladly confess to being somewhat-to-extremely left-of-center are getting ready to throw caution and sanity to the wind and, where they are able to cross party lines or change registration, vote for the single most arch-conservative candidate left in the race: Republican John McCain!
Yes, get ready for March Madness, for McCain has made a strong enough emotional connection with the electorate that it is leaving its beliefs and its reason behind. The public is in love, infatuated with McCain's bold honesty and war-hero status. They swoon over his moral compass and his ability to mock his own weaknesses. He has transcended ideology and logic, so it doesn't matter that his views are actually hostile to the vast majority of liberal and moderate voters. Love is blind. Well, I hate to blow pepper in the moonstruck eyes of my fellow progressives this soon after Valentine's Day, but it's time for a reality check!
Outside of his crusade for what is actually mild, albeit meaningful, campaign-finance reform -- banning soft money in federal elections -- McCain's 17-year voting record and professed public views are as far right-wing as any current member of Congress. To wit: McCain's Senate votes are a stunning 82 out of 86 pro-life. He has stated that he disagrees with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision making abortion legal, and would most likely appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.
In 1994, he embraced Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." In 1995, he voted for a whopping tax cut for the rich, while slashing Medicare benefits for the elderly. He gets continual high ratings from the Christian Coalition and the NRA, and last session he voted to convict Bill Clinton on every article of impeachment that came before the Senate.
He favors school vouchers and is virulently against teachers' unions. He supports voluntary school prayer and the posting of the Ten Commandments in the classroom. He has consistently voted against minimum-wage increases and equal pay for women. He voted against the Brady Bill in 1993, the assault-weapons ban in 1994, and he's against the licensing and registration of handguns. He is for the Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly known as "Star Wars," and wants to retain the disastrous "Don't ask, don't tell" policy concerning gays in the military.
He says his hero is Teddy Roosevelt, but his 1999 environmental rating from the League of Conservation Voters is 11 percent, and his 1998 rating is zero percent. He supports subsidies for mining on public lands and would permit logging in national forests. He doesn't want the federal government making decisions about the environment, and thinks, though history has proven the contrary, that local residents can be trusted to "do what's right in their own backyard." He has voted many times to cut funding for toxic-waste clean-ups.
The only themes on which he has broken ranks with Republican Party orthodoxy is on the size of a tax cut, the fact that he'd rather use some of the projected budget surplus to pay down the debt and shore up Social Security and, of course, campaign-finance reform.
So, to the 250 University of California at Berkeley students who switched their party registration to the GOP for the March 7 California primary, and all other crossover Democrats and independent progressives: Wake up! You're leaving your old party for the wrong guy. If you really care about the future of our nation, by all means vote in a Republican primary. But for all our sakes, cast your vote for George W. Bush. He's someone we can beat in the fall. When you finally come to your senses, you'll realize that love stinks and that helping McCain now will cause you to wake up with an awful taste in your mouth and one wicked political hangover.