John McCain is a national hero and a pro-life, budget hawk, strong on defense conservative senator. But he could very well lose the Republican presidential nomination because conservatives who agree with him on life, government spending and national defense oppose his candidacy. Some will even give a lot of money to the 527 groups he enabled through McCain-Feingold. Those groups will then set out to bury him.
His opponents in the election, some only recent converts to conservative principles, enjoy standing ovations from conservative audiences when they rail against him.
It's an odd situation for a leader of McCain's stature. Especially when you factor in the enormous amount of time he spent campaigning for Republican candidates during the 2006 midterm elections. In fact, McCain backed my candidacy for Ohio governor during a hard fought primary.
So how did he get here? Some may say it's because his conservative credentials are thin. But that's not fair. McCain has been consistently pro-life and enjoys high marks from both the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste.
The real reason is because many in the conservative movement believe that McCain, through his signature campaign finance reform legislation, actively set out to silence their speech. The irony is that McCain-Feingold actually supercharges their speech during this pre-election sorting period because they can give unlimited money to 527 groups who can shape the race. It also neuters the one entity in the body politic that could have saved his nomination - the political party.
Since this early time, political parties have served as large crucibles into which flowed a multiplicity of ideas and from which came a generalized set of political principles. These principles, while altering some with time and circumstance, became the foundations on which candidates ran for public office and a tool by which the public could evaluate their performance in office.
Now, this leavening impact has been taken away in the name of "cleaning up the system." In the name of eliminating "soft money," McCain-Feingold reforms have federalized the entire political process to an extent political parties can no longer carry out their traditional functions. This has led to the proliferation of special interest money flooding the airwaves and filling the message gap left by the restrictions on political parties.
Campaign reforms have done nothing to prevent legal and ethical lapses by federal politicians. Neither have they lessened the impact of money on politics. Nearly every presidential contender has opted out of the public funding program.
Reforms have, however, weakened the traditional role of the political parties and the consensus building the party fosters. One result is seen in the irony attendant to Democrats yelling about exorbitant government spending while Republicans federalize both education and political parties.
Limited government and free speech for political parties-sounds like reasonable positions for any Republican conservative. Too bad both have been felled at the hands of just such Republicans. There must be change, though it may already be too late for John McCain.