Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Would McCain make US more progressive than a Dem win?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-03-16

McCain might lead, long term, to a more progressive set of US policies, domestic and international, than either of the Democrat candidates, but much depends on his choice of running mate.

West Wing fans will no doubt have noted that McCain has many similarities to Arnold Vinick, the decent Republican who was happy to annoy Republican power-brokers, and was liked by many Democrat voters.

If McCain becomes president, many of his progressive policy stances might become considered mainstream, rather than suffer knee-jerk opposition as these policies would if pushed by Democrats.

Consider a few of McCain policy pushes, both past and future, whether the bills he co-sponsored were eventually passed or not:

  • The first serious US federal bill (unpassed) to control carbon emissions from cars.
  • Outlaw torture by agencies
  • Attack health costs by limiting Big-Pharma and the litigious nature of US medicine that imposes many expensive and useless tests.
  • Outlawing pork-barrel "earmarks" attached to legislation and decreasing the power of lobbyists
  • Voted against Arctic drilling

Such a welcome agenda, if implemented by a Republican, could cause a lasting shift in US politics, because these initiatives would be accepted by all but right-wing dogmatists.  This would make it much easier for subsequent Democrats to get office – health-care reform and environmental action would no longer be seen as being a "looney left" idea.  Mind you, I don’t agree with some of his views, but then he calls himself a Republican, I call myself a lefty.

Indeed, many Republican apparatchiks hate McCain as much, or more, than they hate Hillary Clinton.  In some respects, such hate makes more sense because McCain has done more to get under their skin in the real world.  The same actions have earned him a lot of respect from Democrats – both politicians and voters.

It’s possible that Californians, exposed to that surprise package, the "Green Gubernator" at state level, might also swing from Democrat leanings to McCain.

It’s also worth noting that like Hillary, and unlike Obama, McCain enjoys debates that get into policy details rather than unfalsifiable oratory.  On key policy matters, especially the environment, Hillary and McCain are remarkably similar, although McCain has the better track record for telling the truth about the environment.

US politics has some weird attributes, so it’s not impossible, though highly unlikely, that McCain might have Hillary as running mate to counteract Obama-mania if Hillary withdraws sooner than later.  After all, McCain has few in the Republican party who share his policies and honesty.

See Also/Notes:

  • You’ll have to be a subscriber or buy the 2008-03-15 edition of The Economist to read about the details of McCain’s plans for cutting Big Pharma down to size, but this Economist Blog Post has some goodies, including other anti-raving-capitalist actions. Here is an excerpt:

    McCain teamed with Carl Levin on bills closing down tax shelters, forbidding accounting firms from selling products to the firms they audited, and requiring businesses that gave out stock options as compensation to reveal the cost to their stockholders. These measures were bitterly opposed by big business and faced opposition not only from virtually the whole of the GOP but even from many Democrats as well.

  • Update: I’ve just been grovelling and found McCain and Hillary joint tickets discussed elsewhere! Shock horror! Although the articles are critical of both McCain and Hillary, and are suggesting tickets only as satire.



7 Responses to “Would McCain make US more progressive than a Dem win?”

  1. Guy said

    I think the McCain candidacy here on in is almost certain to be shaped by a strong urge to move back towards the religious conservative Republican base. If he is to have any hope in November, he is going to have to give the supporters of folks like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney someone worth going out and voting for.

  2. Dave Bath said

    You’re right about McCain needing to fight the increased turnout Obama will probably bring, and there is evidence that he is making sounds to appease the regressives. I’d note that some of his own policies (as opposed to the inevitable noises for politicial reasons), such as on abortion-related issues are more in line with typical Republican stances.

    That said, many Republicans call McCain a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only).

    I’m certainly not arguing that the whole McCain program is more progressive than the whole Obama or Hillary program would be, just that the progressive elements, if implemented by a Republican (even a RINO), would be more likely to lead to a long-term shift in the way these progressive elements are viewed within the US.

    But I did want to point out the problem McCain has in choosing a running mate. Overall, I still think that Hillary as VP would be more sympathetic to McCain’s overall program than either Romney, or worse still, Huckabee. I consider Huckabee’s anti-science stance incredibly dangerous. That’s why the Hillary-as-McCain-running-mate crossed my mind: it wouldn’t happen, but it makes a weird kind of sense.

  3. Laurel Federbush said

    Thanks for putting it so eloquently! I’m progressive/liberal and I support McCain for reasons that you have expressed more clearly than I could. Well done!

  4. Dave Bath said

    If you are from the US, I’d love to know any links or anecdotes you can give where similar ideas about McCain leading to a greater long-term progressive shift than a Dem win, and especially if anyone else has raised the wild idea of a McCain/Clinton ticket, if only in jest.

  5. Alastair said

    Dave, the points you made to suggest that McCain is a moderate or somewhat progessive don’t tell the whole story about McCain. Those 4 points are good policy. However, I think these are just the tip of the iceberg and are not particularly stunning.

    “The first serious US federal bill (unpassed) to control carbon emissions from cars.”

    Good but not particularly amazing. Shows he’s not a complete suck-up to oil companies.

    “Outlaw torture by agencies”

    So what. You’d have to be pretty crazy to believe torture should be legal.

    “Outlawing pork-barrel “earmarks” attached to legislation and decreasing the power of lobbyists”

    Good policy. This doesn’t make him a moderate or progessive though.

    “Voted against Arctic drilling”

    So he’s not a complete climate change denialist. That’s not particularly spectacular. He doesn’t have particularly great policies on dealing with Climate Change, just much better than Geroge W Bush. Both Obama and Clinton, have targets for an 80% reduction in Carbon Emissions by 2050. Based on the scientific evidence available at the moment that is sensible policy.

    John McCain doesn’t think that Gay Marriage should be allowed. Not moderate policy.

    He believes firmly in the second amendment. This policy results in greater number of gun related deaths and injuries. Not moderate policy.

    His policy is to cut loads of taxes, even many are already very low and the US budget is well in deficit, and has a massive foreign debt. That doesn’t make economic sense. (By the way, I believe there is an argument for lower taxes temporarily if the probably recession is severe and/or prolonged).

    Now when it comes to foreign policy, John McCain is anything but moderate. He believes that they have to ‘defeat the terrorists’, a task which is impossible. He thinks that they should stay in Iraq for 100 years if neccessary. He thinks that they should go to war with Iran if it doesn’t make major concessions to the US. He thinks that war is a good policy if he feels slightly threatened by other countries (Note feels threatened – not actually being threatened in reality).

    He would make a very dangerous US president. He would continue the war in Iraq for the entirety of his presidency. He may start other wars as well. What would that achieve? More conflict and massive loss of life. And what for? As pay back for a few hundred terrorists, millions of inoccent people killed/ to be killed. The Iraq war was a knee-jerk reaction based on fear not on fact. The Bush Administration ignored intelligence advice which suggested that there were no WMDs in Iraq. This war should be ended as soon as possible. It is not achieving anything but more destruction of innocent lives.

    I think McCain is nothing like Vinick. For one, Vinick had sensible foreign policy. Not a gun-hoe lets have war, war and more war policy. Vinick was a moderate in many areas where McCain is not.

    In summary, I don’t think John McCain is a moderate at all. He is a dangerous potential president who I hope never gets that job.

  6. Alastair said

    Sorry I missed your fifth good point about McCain.

    “Attack health costs by limiting Big-Pharma and the litigious nature of US medicine that imposes many expensive and useless tests.”

    That is good policy.

    You can also limit healthcare costs if you wipe out some of your population, sending them to fight in pointless wars.

  7. Dave Bath said

    As I noted, McCain /is/ a Republican, but he /does/ have at least a few progressive policies, and by having these implemented by a Republican these policies might become considered mainstream.

    I’ll have to admit, I’m an Obama-skeptic as he doesn’t seem to go on about policy details (although he might have a set of good advisors like Lessig). If I was a US citizen I’d be wishing Al Gore was in the race.

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