The censure of Senator McCain is a self-inflicted wound for Republicans
Saturday at the Arizona Republican Party mandatory meeting, party leaders passed a resolution to censure Senator John McCain for his “disastrous” voting record. Timothy Schwartz, the author of the resolution, wrote:
… Senator McCain has amassed a long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats, such as Amnesty, funding for ObamaCare, the debt ceiling, assaults on the Constitution and 2nd amendment, and has continued to support liberal nominees.
Interestingly, McCain won the 2010 Republican primary (pdf) with 333,744 votes, compared to fellow Republican JD Hayworth, who received only 190,229 votes. In 2004 (pdf), McCain received 331,720 votes while his opponent, Democrat Stuart Starky, had 173,540 votes (McCain didn’t have a Republican primary challenger that year).
Here’s how I read the data: it’s fair to say that a significant portion of the Arizona Republican party doesn’t support John McCain. But there’s a larger portion that does, and will continue to do so.
The state party censuring Senator McCain will have little effect on his future voting. There’s a reason he earned the nickname “Maverick”. Before the resolution was presented, I asked party leaders and members what would happen if it passed; nothing, they said. I asked what would happen if it didn’t pass. Also nothing. The censure will not change or improve McCain’s voting record, and is also entirely irrelevant as McCain does not report to the party.
As Andrew Clark, a Washington-based political consultant and former head of the Arizona College Republicans, told me:
I think that if the conservative grassroots in Arizona were as concerned about taxes, regulations, and education as they were about Senator McCain, Arizona would be the most free and prosperous state in the nation.
What the censure does do is embarrass those who are working to help middle-class Americans and others most impacted by the sad state of the economy. While the censure doesn’t represent the views of the Arizona Republican Party as a whole, it was passed by an overwhelming majority of party leaders. It’s more ammunition for voters to say that there is a “civil war” dividing the party – and the nation. This is not what we need right now.
With the impending Arizona governor’s race, it is crucial for the party to be cohesive in its messaging. Political stunts such as publicly shaming a sitting senator, American war hero, and former Republican presidential nominee, are no way to convey that message. In addition, Arizona has been lobbying to have the 2016 Republican Convention in Phoenix. The current press coming from Arizona won’t help their efforts.
McCain doesn’t need the support of party elites to win. A percentage of the party hasn’t and doesn’t support him, but, as the above poll numbers suggest, a greater percentage will continue to support him.
For his part, McCain responded:
We’ve got polling data that shows overwhelming support. I’ve won every election in Arizona by very large margins, quite often with the opposition of that element of the party … If anything, it fires me up.
Blatant pandering and petty party politics need to go. Party leaders should focus their efforts on constructive solutions to the problems afflicting the US and Arizona. McCain may not be perfect, but he can say that he has been fighting for solutions. Which is more than can be said of his critics.
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