McCain and the Right

[Peter Suderman]
Not surprisingly, I'm not exactly a fan of James Dobson, and though I think there are sound reasons to criticize McCain, I'm not terribly impressed by Dobson's latest cranky outburst. I think evangelicals can and should be a force for good within right of center politics, but I don't think James Dobson is much of a force for good within either evangelicalism or politics. I do think, however, that Dobson's continued McCain bashing somewhat complicates things for Rick Perlstein, who just published a sharp piece in the Nation on the conservative movement's complex relationship with the current GOP nominee. On one hand, it suggests that the about face of opinion regarding McCain Perlstein writes about amongst conservative leaders is not at all universal. On the other hand, it underlines his point that many prominent conservatives may be somewhat out of touch with the conservative rank and file, the majority of whom don't seem to share Dobson's animosity toward McCain.

In general, I think that, despite painting with too broad a brush, Perlstein gets the conservative movement's relationship to McCain basically right. A lot of conservative leaders didn't think he was the best candidate, and said so before he won. But now that he is the candidate, most conservatives have decided, quite reasonably, that backing him is the best option available. I would take issue with Perlstein's contention, though, that McCain proved the leaders of the conservative movement unnecessary, that, as Perlstein says, he "called their bluffs." Yes, McCain won without a huge amount of backing from the right's opinion elite. But, as Ross has pointed out, a lot of that had less to do with tactical or political skill than it did with a significant amount of luck.