McCain and the extremists

His problem isn’t “winning over conservatives.” His problem is deciding whether to appeal to moderates or buckle to pressure from extremists.

The current media narrative is that John McCain is a straight-talking moderate Republican whose problem is appealing to conservatives.

The truth of the matter (acknowledged, for example, by George W. Bush) is that McCain is a conservative (in the debased modern meaning of that term) Republican &#8212 about as conservative as John Kerry is liberal &#8212 who occasionally strays from the reservation but has no reluctance to cut his conscience to fit the fashion (Bush tax cuts, televangelists, Confederate flag, immigration).

Now McCain has to decide whether to move toward the center for the general election or, instead, to appease the extremist faction within his party.

If journalists start asking the question “Will McCain buckle to the extremists?” rather than “Can McCain win over the conservatives?” he’s in a box from which he can’t escape. Since journalists seem unlikely to do so on their own (because McCain gives good quote), Democrats may want to help them along.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: