In November, we’ll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy. And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.
In this election the right hand has no clue what either the right or left hands are doing. Apparently. Nor can I really believe it’s some sort of deep game – Operation Briar Patch.
This can’t last. Quite possibly, it can’t last another week. If McCain wraps it up, what will Republican wisdom be? (Obviously the bumperstickers won’t read ‘McCain: probably less liberal than Obama’.) There are basically three options: 1) McCain as maverick liberal goes down the memory hole. Don’t look back. We have always been at peace with McCainia. 2) McCain as new direction. So far, there is zero evidence of this sort of framing. But there is obvious desire to get the Republican party back on track, after Bush. So, if McCain is it, there is an advantage to brandishing his former maverick status as evidence that real change has been achieved. 3) It was personal, not political. It will be discovered that McCain’s maverick status was just a function of his personal rivalry with Bush. We’re done with Bush, so we’re over that.
It is very hard for me to imagine a world in which Republicans reliably say any of 1)-3) about the formerly anathema McCain. But they can’t call him a liberal, or run him as an ‘until 2012’ placeholder. What, then? What will be the reason why McCain was obviously always the best man for the job?