As I marveled at last time, the conventional media wisdom that John McCain’s decision to tap Sarah Palin as his running mate was a sign that he was reclaiming his reputation as a “maverick” despite the fact that the choice was a complete and utter capitulation to the Religious Right.
I’m fully aware that trotting out definitions of words is a hackneyed device, but in this case, it seems kind of relevant – Maverick: an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.
Back in 2000, McCain established his reputation as a “maverick” by bucking his “party” and especially the “group” of Religious Right activists who constitute that party’s base with his infamous declaration that they were “agents of intolerance” and a “corrupting influences on religion and politics.” So at least in that context, his reputation as a maverick was not completely underserved.
But since then, he has completely caved to the realities of Republican politics, fallen back in line, and cravenly sublimated himself to the Right’s demands. Yet, for some reason, the media fails to recognize this glaringly obvious fact.
But even more amazing is the fact that, ever since he named Palin to his ticket, the Religious Right has begun praising McCain’s “maverickness.”
Shortly after McCain made the announcement, the Family Research Council hailed Palin as “McCain’s Co-Maverick.” Earlier this month Gary Bauer declared that his “maverick reputation” would “appeal to swing voters.” And now, buried in this long US News article, we get Michael Medved saying “Both Palin and McCain are mavericks, authentic, and original.”
What group or party does the Right think McCain thwarted in picking Palin, other than his own VP short list of Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge? The media and the pundits? Whoever it was, it certainly wasn’t the GOP or the Religious Right.
For the media, McCain initially established his “maverick” reputation by exhibiting independence from the Republican Party and the Religious Right. He has since negated that persona in a multitude of ways, much to the delight of the Republican Party and the Religious Right, who are now inexplicably crowing that McCain’s “maverick” reputation will be advantageous in November.
It seems that the media considering McCain a “maverick” because he once parted ways with the Republican Party and its right-wing base, and the Republican Party and its right-wing base thinks he’s a “maverick” because he picked a running mate that confounded the media.
Needless to say, both cannot be true. And, in fact, neither is.
Frankly, the fact that the Religious Right is now hailing McCain for his “maverick” reputation shows just how undeserved that reputation really is.