As the conventional wisdom begins to shift toward an understanding that John McCain's campaign is in serious trouble, the Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti turns up in the op-ed pages of the New York Times to explain it to us civilians. Continetti reviews how McCain has gone from GOP heir-apparent to the right's favorite punching bag. Some of it is that mixed bag of issues (campaign finance reform, global warming, etc.) and old personal grudges (Falwell fallout). As Continetti summarizes:
While Mr. McCain and the conservative activists who compose the Republican grassroots share many positions — pro-war, pro-life, against waste in government and for low taxes — a significant portion of those grassroots just ... doesn’t ... like him.And the most interesting reason Continetti cites for this mistrust is not ideological or personal, but cultural:
For years conservatives have cast a suspicious eye on Senator McCain because non-conservatives find him appealing. They distrust the institutions of liberal culture — the news media in particular — to such a degree that a politician those institutions embrace must be suspect. They grow furious when they hear Senator McCain on Don Imus’s radio show but not Rush Limbaugh’s. The politics of polarization militate against a McCain candidacy. The man transcends the partisan divide — but what partisans want above all is a fellow partisan.Take a moment to consider how remarkable this is - how self-defeating. The conservative movement has reached the point where it refuses to tolerate the notion of its candidates even talking to mainstream America. This is a movement, a party, in the process of committing political suicide.
Call it poetic justice, tragedy or farce: Senator McCain’s quest to become the establishment candidate has jeopardized his candidacy and exposed deep fissures within the conservative movement.