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October 05, 2002

The Myth that McCain is a Democrat

It's a bit disturbing that even Tapped has bought the line that McCain is now really just a Democrat parading around in Republican drag. Sure, McCain is not a team player and says harsh things about his party when the cameras are rolling. Most politicians have the decency to say such things about their allies "off the record" when they can put the knife in anonymously. But most of them do it repeatedly.

But while McCain has dissented from his party on a few issues like campaign finance reform and the patients bill of rights, his voting record overall is still hard-right Republican.

  • In the last three years (1999-2001), his average "liberal quotient" according to Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) was 17%.
  • His voting record for those same three years according to the AFL-CIO was 14%.
  • On environmental issues, according to the League of Conservation Voters, McCain had an average score of 13% for the past three years.

    McCain's ratings had a moderate uptick in 2001, largely because of McCain-Feingold and a few other issues, but with the "Straight Talk Express" leading the charge on the war against Iraq, it will be years before McCain gets even in the ballpark of moderate Republicans like Arlen Specter (lifetime AFL-CIO rating of 64%) or Olympia Snowe (League of Conservation Voters average rating of 53% over the last three years.)

    The only story on McCain is that he once had an insane Jesse Helms hard-right voting record and he has advanced to become merely a raging conservative with a big mouth. That may be useful to progressives at times, but don't fall for the hype.

    Update: Jeff Hauser in the comments thought it was unfair to combine the ratings from 1999 onwards, since McCain has shifted most since the 2000 campaign. 2002 ratings haven't been done yet, but even looking just at 2001, McCain's ratings are still pretty rightwing.

    His 2001 AFL-CIO rating got up to the pathetic 27%, partly because he voted against anti-union amendments in McCain-Feingold because he knew they would kill the bill. Since the average GOP rating was 20%, McCain excepting McCain-Feingold was hardly different from anti-labor Republicans. McCain still voted:
    * In support of Ashcroft's nomination
    * To kill Clinton's workplace ergonomics regulations
    * Against expanded funding for prescription drugs
    * For Bush's budget cuts (even if he did vote against the tax cuts)
    * Against funding for school construction
    * For school vouchers
    * In support of NAFTA's loosening of truck safety
    * To continue using slave labor in our prisons for federal contracts, instead of allowing free workers to bid on them
    * Against health care relief for airline workers after 911
    * To allow employers to discriminate against unions when offering employee deductions for non-profit donations
    * Against defending the collective bargaining rights of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical crews

    Oh, yeah and if you look at the environment, aside from campaign finance reform, the League of Conservation voters in 2001 found only one decent vote by McCain, rejecting new powers for the Dept. of Agriculture to block environmental regulations they deemed harmful to farmers. Other than that he supported Norton's nomination for Interior, supported drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, supported drilling in national monuments, and voted for cutting environmental funding from the Dept. of Agriculture. McCain's enviro record in 2000 was even worse- he scored a goose egg, voting on the wrong side of every environmental issue.

    How long does the list of horrible votes have to be before folks give up on the McCain fantasy. Yeah, he might be marginally better than the Shrub, but not enough to make much of a difference. I'm a lesser-evil proponent but I'm not so discouraged about 2004 that I'd promote someone more conservative than Bob Dole as the Democratic nominee.

    Posted by Nathan at October 5, 2002 08:12 AM

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    During and earlier wave of Democratic McCain-worship I called the phenomenon "submissive wetting". McCain is obviously top dog, so why don't we just throw ourselves at his mercy?

    The Dems have their own war heros (Kerry, Kerrey), but that isn't enough. You need the John Wayne image too. (No one thinks of George McGovern or Mark Hatfield as war heros, but both were combat veterans, which partly accounts for their dovishness).

    Posted by: zizka at October 5, 2002 11:21 AM

    Including 1999 (the biggest McCain changes were during and immediately after the campaign; most '00 votes were probably pretty early in the elction year gridlock) and excluding 2002. . . Problematic.

    CAFE standards? The tax cut?

    No, McCain is not anywhere near a median Dem, and to say so is almost akin to accepting the Green vision of Dems. The Dems could and ought to do better. But what McCain has become is an Independent, and as such, I believe he is the individual with the best chance to defeat His Fraudulency in '04.

    Is that a good thing?

    I'm touching on real close to my Hatch Act borderline rights here, but. . . . My "boss," the Assistant Attorney Ageneral in charge of Antitrust, just announced that he will be resigning before the end of 2002. When I think of who a) Gore would have nominated, b) who Bush has nominated, and c) who Bush will nominate -- and then I start considering a McCain Presidency -- let's just say that McCain is different and further left in salient ways.

    Posted by: Jeff at October 5, 2002 12:19 PM

    1) I have faith -- arguably groundless, arguably not -- that a McCain who formally left the GOP would behave differently than one within the party. Loyalty and all that sorta stuff -- and a view of the role of the Presidency -- probably help explain the Norton vote. But no question, McCain ain't ideal.

    2) I think that McCain has been good rhetorically and substantively (e.g., stock option reporting) on corporate scandals issues, suggesting that his tax cut opposition and egalitarian class rhetoric are the start of a denunciation of GOP views on economics. See also Patients Bill of Rights.

    3) He was better than 18 or 19 Dems on CAFE standards; I have a hard time reconciling that 2002 view with the record you cite to. Again, it's an issue of faith whether you take his 2001 record as GOP Senator or the high profile centrist positions I've highlighted as bearing more predictive value.

    Perhaps after a night of solidarity beer drinking with a fellow Yankee fan, I'm more than typically willing to express faith in something. See also the moves from the GOP of McCainiacs Marshall Wittman and Weaver, the less stupid views of the Weekly Standard on corporate power, the communitarian strand of "National Greatness" ideology generally. . . .

    Posted by: Jeff at October 5, 2002 10:30 PM

    Here's a challenge Jeff-- find one pro-union vote by McCain EVER that was not connected to the McCain-Feingold legislation. McCain has made some stabs at pro-consumer stands, which involved both his corporate reforms (endorsed by many business commentators, so hardly radical) and patients bill of rights. But he is a consistent opponent of workers rights on almost every issue.

    McCain is an enemy of workers interests and dangerous because he sells himself to the media as some kind of moderate, rather than the raging rightwinger he is, except on a few high-profile issues.

    Hell, if we were going to panic and support a moderate against Shrub, pick one of the nice moderate Maine Senators or Lincoln Chafee or someone who isn't the sworn enemy of workers interests.

    Posted by: Nathan Newman at October 6, 2002 10:37 AM

    Interesting. Of course, if you use this measuring stick, even Trent Lott begins to look Liberal. Frightening stuff, eh??

    Posted by: Jack Cluth at October 8, 2002 07:10 AM

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