Meghan McCain’s Message For Republicans

During McCain’s tedious, frustrating campaign season, Meghan McCain’s blog shone as a bright spot. Her cute behind-the-scenes pictures and sunny outlook made me like John McCain just a little more. Like many conservative-libertarian types, I held my nose and voted for the man believing that he would be a less-bad alternative to Barack Obama. I’m not sure if that assessment would turn out to be right. We’ll never know.

Since the election, Meghan McCain has made quite the splash. Because she’s young, vapid and, like her father, hates her own, she’s a media darling. She is the perfect embodiment of what it means to be a moderate. As Kim Priestap says about Ms. McCain in her Pajama’s column today, ” ‘I love you. Now please change.'”

Kim disagrees with this urge from moderates:

Ms. McCain is like an ideological carpetbagger. A moderate, she floats into the political culture on the wings of her father’s name in order to set Republicans straight and push them into what she defines as the mainstream, a mission eerily similar to the one her father engaged in for many years. It is unfortunate, for the sake of our Republic, that John McCain was defeated in November, despite his moderate leanings. However, if the Republican Party were to follow the advice of another McCain, the result would be more electoral defeats, further shrinking of the Republican base, and more blurring of the differences between the two parties.

It’s true that the blurring of the parties makes it difficult for voters to get what Republicans stand for and so vote for the clearer message coming from the Left. It is also true that moderates follow personality. And not to knock presidential hopeful John McCain, but he was an old guy who came across like the curmudgeon who yells and shakes his cane at kids running through his yard. Hip and happening he was not.

Where Meghan is right is that Republicans are going to have to find a way to sway political superficials like her or else they’ll continue losing elections. A vast group of people, many women, vaguely follow election coverage, don’t really care about issues and vote on personality and “feelings.” While in Chicago I had a conversation with a couple such women. My travel companion was appalled at their ignorance. I just smiled, asked questions they couldn’t answer, and pondered how the Republican party is going to reach these people.

John Hawkins wrote an excellent piece yesterday about how ideological purity will consign the Republican party to irrelevance. He says:

If you’re conservative or even a libertarian who places a high priority on small government and restraining spending, there is no perfect option. All you can really do is try to get the Republicans back in power, hold their feet to the fire, and get as many Americans as possible to come around to our way of thinking on capitalism, free markets, deficit spending, and the government.

Ideas matter. Principle matters. The Republican brand has been destroyed by hypocritical Republicans who have abandoned any substance that defined them–fiscal restraint, small government, maturity.

Image and message matters too. Republicans have been long on facts and short on story. They’ve done a good job projecting a morally superior, logical argument when people don’t respond to being preached to and are rarely convinced by logic. People don’t like being hectored.

People, especially women, respond to how they feel. Go ahead and curse this reality. Bray at the moon that women like Meghan McCain will be the deciders in the next election. But the fact is, they will be.

So the candidates must have core conservative values but be appealing to the people who follow trends instead of principle. John McCain just didn’t do it for these voters. And if a moderate platform was the key, he would have won in a landslide. But he didn’t.

And moderates need to get this, too. John McCain, the towering moderate that he is, got his butt kicked. Blame Sarah Palin. Go ahead. That’s convenient and maybe partly true. But the bigger problem was McCain’s message (vague, tongue-tied and incoherent) and his ideas (all over the map).

Republicans need to do better. They need to be more principled and more defined and also appeal to people who find smooth talking, fine suits, fabulous mascara and superficial trappings important. To ignore either part of this puzzle will cause us to lose again.

Footnote:

I’ve been waiting to add a link to a very important piece about this topic. Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse has a rather depressing take, but one that deserves consideration.

Cross-posted at MelissaClouthier.com

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