No, I am not talking about a struggle involving physicians in the Republican Party; I'm talking about the McCain Republican third rail phenomenon which is being called McCain Derangement Syndrome.

While I supported Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani before that (and I guess I would have to be considered a Giuliani supporter as long as he lasts), I have not supported John McCain in this election, and the primary reason is that I am still sore over McCain-Feingold. I also don't like McCain's immigration policies, although I do not think that he's a traitor to the country, hell-bent on annihilating national sovereignty and destroying Western civilization the way some people do. (No, I am not naming names as I don't mean to single people out.)

But the issue of irrational "McCain Derangement Syndrome" (read it, and more here) forces me to ask an obvious question: what is it that makes McCain so infinitely worse than Giuliani or Romney? He's not a real conservative? Please. I know he's taken some less than palatable positions on the gun issue, but compare that to Giuliani's. There's a legitimate beef with him over the immigration issue, but his views are not much different than those of George Bush. Yet many of the same people who consider McCain to be anathema voted for Bush. What gives?

FWIW, if you look at them and their overall positions and records over the past five years, I don't think there's a dime's worth of difference between McCain, Romney, and Giuliani. It's just that Romney and Giuliani have "adjusted" their views in order to please the so-called "base" and McCain, like him or not, has tended to just keep being McCain and let the chips fall. (From a "pure" social conservative perspective, all three are arguably "RINOs," but McCain is the least hypocritical RINO.)

For this, McCain engenders the visceral, passionate kind of hatred which can be analogized to BDS, except it's on the right. Some of it is downright paranoid, and it reminds me of the way McCain was attacked in the 2000 primary as a Manchurian candidate, a traitor whose sympathies were with North Vietnam, a homo lover (shudder), and the "fag candidate."

Fortunately, most of the recent stuff is nowhere near that bad, and I certainly hope it doesn't get that bad.

David Brooks notes the phenomenon too:

Many professional conservatives do not regard Mike Huckabee or John McCain as true conservatives. "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party," Rush Limbaugh said recently on his radio show. "It's going to change it forever, be the end of it."

Some of the contributors to The National Review's highly influential blog, The Corner, look to Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney to save the conservative movement. Their hatred of McCain is so strong, it's earned its own name: McCain Derangement Syndrome.

Yet a funny thing has happened this primary season. Conservative voters have not followed their conservative leaders. Conservative voters are much more diverse than the image you'd get from conservative officialdom.

They may be diverse, but such "diversity" has done little to prevent McCain Derangement Syndrome from setting in.

I'm forced to ask: isn't this about beating the Clintons?

The GOP ranks are thinning, and as I say, now that Fred Thompson is out, I'm back to supporting Giuliani, who is not exciting at all. But if he drops out, it will be a race between McCain and Romney, and I have to say that I slightly (with emphasis on slightly) prefer McCain to Romney. Mainly because I like McCain on military matters and I think he'd be a better president to head the armed forces right now. Better than the Romney, and better than Bush. (Um, we are still at war with radical Islamism, are we not?)

But I have to stress that I would vote for Romney if he is the candidate. (Hell, as I think I made clear already, I'd even vote for Huckabee.) This is not to defend McCain's politics, but there seems to be more antipathy towards McCain among some Republicans, though, than there is even towards Hillary. I think it's bizarre. It's as if they'd rather have Hillary as president.

This strikes me as insane.

But I admit, I may be clouded by my biases, so let me admit them again. I'm still an ABC (Anyone But Clinton) guy, so I am influenced by the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. (Better Obama than Hillary, better Giuliani than Hillary, better McCain than Hillary.....)

For awhile, though, I was hopeful about Fred Thompson. I have been holding my nose while I vote for so long it's second nature. Most libertarian types are used to holding their nose and voting for various communitarian types, whether social conservatives or Big Government pork barrel "conservatives" or both.

What annoys the hell out of me is this: I am so damned used to holding my nose and being a good boy, and voting for these people, that I tend to see it as part of being a Republican. You just vote for whoever the party serves up. Otherwise, you're not a real Republican. Yet these irate -- and I mean the really irate social conservatives, the WND wing of the party -- they act like holding their nose is treason. As if their stuff is infinitely more important than my stuff. That's annoying enough, but not only do they make a huge spectacle out of refusing to hold their nose, they then turn around and accuse the nose-holding voters of being RINOs. Imagine! I'm a RINO for voting for the Republican candidate. And the people who sit it out and let Hillary win are "real Republicans."

It's almost too surreal for me to process, but for me that's a primary purpose of blog posts, so I'll try to explain why I disagree with the philosophy of letting Hillary win in order to preserve the purity of conservatism.

I'm in no way accusing these people of being pro-Hillary. Far from it. I suspect that behind the thinking is the idea that if the country is ruined by intensifying the pace of socialism, open border policies, multiculturalist rot, draconian gun control, terrible schools, etc., that the voters will finally "wake up" and realize that the only answer is to be found in far-right conservatism. Left wing tyranny will bring about a backlash resulting in sudden majority support for far-right politics.

This reminds me of a political debate on the left in the late 1960s -- a time when Weather Underground types and their supporters believed in radicalizing everyone -- and their violent tactics were intended to do just that. More mainstream leftists, while agreeing with the general Marxist philosophy, believed that such tactics might very well cause Richard Nixon to put America under martial law and bring about a fascist state. To this the far left replied that "If it takes fascism, then bring it on!" They believed that if America went fascist, the great middle would suddenly see the light and become Marxist. Now I am not comparing today's conservative right to the 1960s far left; for starters the right wing's tactics are not violent. I mean to highlight the logical fallacy involved in thinking that helping to bring about an abhorrent government will cause ordinary people to "see the light." Ordinary people not being activists, they don't see the light in this way; they hope only that they will be left alone. Thus, assuming the Clintons return to power, this does not mean voters would suddenly be more likely to vote for a far right conservative. To the contrary, they'd be more likely to vote Hillary into a second term. And, while the party purists in the GOP might wring their hands in despair of what has happened to this once wonderful country, they'll be stuck agreeing with each other, and blaming the RINOs for their loss.

This brings to mind another reason for sitting it out and letting Hillary win. McCain -- and the "RINOs" -- can then be blamed for Republican defeat, and the right wing can then have their "turn" at running against Hillary. I'll vote for them, of course. And they'll probably say that the reason they didn't win is because of the RINOs. But winning isn't everything; it's about party principles.

I have principles too, and I don't expect them to prevail.

(I mean really. Stop socialism, legalize drugs, defeat Islamofascism? Come on! What's next? "End the Culture War"?)

But that's why I hold my nose and vote. What I still can't figure out is why holding my nose and voting for what I don't especially like makes me less than a "real Republican."

Real Republicans don't vote. (?)

I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with a bumpersticker.

posted by Eric on 01.26.08 at 11:16 AM


If you could get past your fear of Islamoterrorists you would be a pretty good fit with the Ron Paul republicans.

Jardinero1   ·  January 26, 2008 1:07 PM

You really know how to hurt a guy!


Eric Scheie   ·  January 26, 2008 2:27 PM

The "give the bad guys a shot at running things and sane people will revolt and change things for the better" idea has been around for a long time. In Robert Graves' Claudius the God, Roman Emperor Claudius makes Nero his heir, figuring that will force the Romans to restore the republic to save the country. It didn't work then, isn't likely to work now. It just makes the country go downhill faster.

Stewart   ·  January 26, 2008 2:37 PM

I think it's tied up in the "fight the good fight" ideal. It's OK to fight the good fight and lose. Holding your nose is a poor substitute for "fighting the good fight." Unsatisfying. It leaves me feeling cheap and dirty to "settle for" whatever's being served up. If the PA Republican party wasn't so obsessed with bringing crappy candidates for governor like Fisher and Swann, maybe we wouldn't be seeing Fat Eddie wreck the state right now. I hate to think we're going to wind up watching swillary wreck America...

M. Murcek   ·  January 26, 2008 6:16 PM

IMHO the primaries are for selecting the person who (hopefully) represents as best as possible the values/ideas of your party and how you'd like the country governed. At this point I don't think "who will beat Hillary" is the #1 concern.

I was a McCain supporter and voted for him in the CA primaries in 2000. But my respect for him ...specifically because of McCain-Feingold, the gang of 14 and his abysmal stand on amnesty ... has plummeted. Couple that with his short-tempered crankiness and fits of pique.

If he's the nominee will I vote? Of course I will. But if Obama is the Dem nominee watch the election as a re-run of young vigorous handsome smiling Willy Clinton vs shriveled, frowning, cantankorous Bob Dole.

The MSM is salivating over getting to prop up McCain so they can knock him over.

Darleen   ·  January 26, 2008 7:18 PM

I agree with you Eric. I am a Republican and the so-called pundits can't tell me different. I don't agree with them on all things (maybe even most) but I am sure as H! am not a Democrat. I do not like McCain, but if he is the nominee he has my vote. Believe me not voting and letting Hillary or Obama in is not the rational thing to do.

LYNNDH   ·  January 26, 2008 7:31 PM

Hey Eric,

my wife and I keep your blog on our safari home page, read it daily and
seldom disagree at all, but you are absolutely missing the point on this
McCain business. McCain isn't just slightly less than conservative; he
has made a career of spitting into the face of conservatives and
courting favor from the main-stream media. It's not just
McCain-Fiengold, and his ONGOING support of AMNESTY and open borders (
he doesn't even try to flip-flop sincerely on this issue, such is his
disdain for the conservative base ); it's also voting against Bush's tax
cuts, his ludicrous ( and potentially DISASTROUS ) global warming
fear-mongering partnership with Joe Lieberman, and , most important of
all, the media-ingratiating stunt now known infamously as THE GANG OF
FOURTEEN, which would have changed 200 year old Senatorial rules of
conduct and effectively stolen the Presidents constitutional right to
select judges.

To compare his record to Romney's and Giulliani's is silly; neither of
the candidates' records can approach the shameless self-promotion and
rampant disregard for any and all conservatives that are so obvious with
McCain. The fact that McCain may not flip-flop much ( atleast not
sincerely ) should give no one any consolation - he's been wrong on
virtually all conservative issues historically, and remains so today,
with the one glaring exception being the war in Iraq.

I absolutely, categorically agree with Rush that a McCain nomination
would mean the end of the Republican Party as we know it.
If we allow a politician to play to the media while subverting
conservative ideals, and then reward him with the presidential
nomination, then we will confirm that power and success can be obtained
while abandoning the conservative base. And don't fall into the media
trap that maintains the conservative base to be Bible-thumping
Gay-haters - that's rubbish. I'm a consevative because I have a degree
in, and on-going love for philosophy, a fascination with history and the
awareness of how special this American experiment is, and the astuteness
to see Socialism marching on. I don't go to church, don't adhere to any
religion, nor do most of my conservative friends.

BEATING HILLARY IS SECONDARY - to replace her with McCain would be a
hollow "victory" indeed; perhaps a tragic "victory" considering what the
effect it almost surely will have on the Republican Party.

thanks for listening,

William Steiert

William and Meleva   ·  January 26, 2008 8:42 PM

My problems with John McCain go along somewhat different lines than just an item or two. And much further back. He 'reformed' twice: I do not like what he formed into, and what he started off as was none too hot as a legislator. No one who has been in Congress since 1986 gets my vote, and that is not even the start of my problems with John McCain.

That is why the two parties, in my eyes, had a decidedly scanty look to their candidates, for me: too many Congresscritters, not enough non-Emirs of Incumbistan. And that is how the two parties have been governing, which spells an ill wind for the US, liberty and democracy.

ajacksonian   ·  January 26, 2008 8:52 PM

Hi William and Meleva,

Peggy Noonan has been around for awhile and has a somewhat different take than Rush:


On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"
This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
Were there other causes? Yes, of course. But there was an immediate and essential cause.
And this needs saying, because if you don't know what broke the elephant you can't put it together again. The party cannot re-find itself if it can't trace back the moment at which it became lost. It cannot heal an illness whose origin is kept obscure.

I am no fan of McCain, and I agree that "a McCain nomination would mean the end of the Republican Party as we know it."

But what is the Republican Party as we know it? I once thought of the GOP as the party of Goldwater. (He'd be a liberal today.) Then Reagan. Then the anti-Clinton 90s. Now big government conservative Bush?

If saving the Republican Party as we know it is more important than preventing Hillary from winning, if it is more important than the country, then I think it's fair to ask what it is that is so worth fighting for. The GOP has not lived up to my personal goals or ideals, yet I have voted for them in election after election. The people who threaten not to vote claim they know what is best. So what exactly is that?

If "BEATING HILLARY IS SECONDARY" I'd ask, to what? If she gets in, she's in for eight years. I think this would be the worst possible thing for the country. Far worse than McCain. And far worse to continued demoralization of the GOP, which is already happening and will continue to happen.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I don't like McCain, but I'm just not convinced that letting Hillary win will be better than McCain.

Eric Scheie   ·  January 26, 2008 11:40 PM

Eric, don't worry. Hillary isn't getting in. You will see a President Obama in 2009, though, so get ready.

In the meantime, those of us who care about more than a transitory victory will continue to try to reconstruct a GOP that responds to this, which the entrenched GOP leadership has been doing its darndest to ignore:

Intellectual Conservative Politics and Philosophy » The Christmas Gift in the Battleground Poll

Then in July 2007, sixty-three percent of Americans called themselves “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” Ten straight Battleground Polls over more than five years, and the between fifty-nine and sixty-three percent of Americans, when given six different choices, four of which did not have “conservative,” chose to be identified as conservative.

So what has changed? Nothing has changed. The Battleground Poll released December 19, 2007 shows that fifty-eight percent of Americans called themselves either “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” Only thirty-six percent of Americans called themselves “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.”And it is because of conservative disgust with the direction of the GOP that we are going to see Obama achieve the White House in 2009.

He may not repeat his electoral triumph in 2012, though, if the GOP regains its senses, its principles, and its roots - the same ones that brought it its last great victory in 1980, and then again in 1994 - and which GWB, John McCain, and the GOP have since done everything possible to squander - and along with them, have squandered any hope for victory this fall.

As for me? I'm writing in Fred Thompson.

Bill Quick   ·  January 27, 2008 12:49 AM

You should definitely take a better look at Mike Huckabees policies, speaking ability, and moral background. (Not surprisingly, the press feels putting someone with values in the white house repugnant. Also the latest national polling data gives Huckabee the best shot at winning, which is why they are working diligently to affect the outcome vs report on it.
Tucker Carlson gave him a win at the last debate, and Pat Buchanan was sending back handed compliments :).

Take a look,,and if so inclined, send him a buck..heres the link

Craig   ·  January 27, 2008 1:14 AM

I've never understood the impulse to refrain from voting as a form of protest. Or, for that matter, voting for a third party candidate (again, as protest. I can at least vaguely sympathize with someone who actually belongs to a third party voting for that party).

If you're mad enough with your part to try to cause them to lose by not voting, shouldn't you at least have the cajones to go out and vote for the opposite party? That's what you, the protest non-vote voter, are trying to accomplish anyway.

Why not go so far as to cancel out the vote of one of the nose-holders in your voting district instead of being passive-aggressive about it?

Flakbait   ·  January 27, 2008 1:26 AM

Eric, our votes for Bush were at least half votes against the other guy. One factor that no one wants to mention is that a lot of conservatives are tired of taking one for the team. If we're going to get Liberal anyway, why not at least deprive them of RINO cover?

As for McCain, it's not just his position on immigration, it's the fact that he refers to us as racists and nativists because we think that borders, national sovereignty, and citizenship mean something. He violated his oath to uphold the Constitution with McCain Feingold. And he's so obviously willing to go along with Democrats as long as he gets a favorable headline.

SDN   ·  January 27, 2008 8:08 AM

Eric -
thanks for your response.
No, I am hardly espousing saving thr Republican Party while losing the country. But I believe that it is Conservatism only that will save this country, and the Republican Party is the only place to find it - not enough of it, but still a far cry from the Marxist Democrats.

I couldn't agree more that Bush has been a terrible disappointment for conservatives, but should I just continue to lower my expectations until there is no conservatism left in the Party? I am not sacrificing my country for the Party; rather I am sacrificing the Party for the country,i.e. conservatism.

By supporting a scoundrel like McCain, I have to believe we are hastening the decline of conservatism. By voting for "anyone who can beat Hillary" it is you who are propping up the Party, not I. I will throw the Party over in favor of conservatism.

I believe that politicians are motivated by power and power alone. If the present Republicans and future Republicans aspiring to the Oval Office see McCain succeed in light of his subverting of conservatism, they will raightly conclude that they, too , may abandon us.

William and Meleva   ·  January 27, 2008 1:01 PM

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