John McCain as a Social Conservative

John McCain has had a rocky ride with social conservatives and last week was no exception. We have to look at his actions as a socially conservative warrior and not just his words.

The cornerstones of socially conservative views are the sanctity of life and the preservation of marriage.  From these two issues, all other social conservative dogma is based. On his website, Senator John McCain advocates overturning Roe v. Wade and for the protection of marriage.  On these issues, he is a social conservative. Certainly, he has publicly stated these views before: but will he bring along evangelicals not only to vote for him but to work for him?  Add to that the upheaval created by refusing the endorsements of two icons of the evangelical movement, John McCain had his seriousness tested on these issues.

So how does John McCain respond? As he always does by going to the belly of the beast — the mainstream media, this time in the form of daytime talk shows. First, it was “The View” where he battled with the women on the couch, especially Joy Behar.  Joy launched into her rapid fire advice on how John could be less conservative and McCain unabashedly said, “Joy, I am a conservative.” 

For me, as a proud member of the “vast right wing conspiracy,” this is just what I wanted to hear.  John McCain proclaiming that he is a conservative on ABC and in the presence of Barbara Walters — the heck with Joy, we want Barbara to know.  If he keeps saying it, maybe even he will believe it.  Heck, I’m starting to believe it.  I love the way he takes on his enemies and the media — maybe they are one in the same.

The next step it convincing rank and file social conservatives.  McCain had an interesting week in that regard.  He renounced the endorsements of Pastor John Hagee and Ron Parsley for things they said about Jews, Catholics and Muslims was a good decision.  Before the Libs say “gotcha,” let’s point out the difference between the relationship between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright and John McCain and his two pastor problems. 

Barack Obama sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for over 20 years and he gave money to the church every year.  John McCain’s endorsements by Pastors Hagee and Parsley were not paid for by John McCain and McCain is not a member of either of these men’s churches.  In addition, John McCain renounced their endorsements in no uncertain terms.  But Obama?  About Wright he said, there was no “I could no more disown this man, than my own white grandmother…”  And then another two weeks of hand wringing before the issue was resolved.  If nothing else, John McCain is sincere and capable of decisive action.

John McCain understands the evangelical community is bigger than Hagee and Parsley and has more diverse views.  These men have a following but evangelicals will respect McCain for the way he handled this. There was no “wink and a nod” policy in this exchange.

Then, McCain went on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to talk about same sex marriage.  What he should have said was, government can’t define marriage, historically marriage preceded government and government can’t define it.  He didn’t say that, but here is what transpired when Ellen asked the Senator about same-sex marriage.

SENATOR McCAIN: Well, my thoughts are that I think that people should be able to enter into legal agreements, and I think that that is something that we be should encouraging, particularly in the case of insurance and other areas, decisions that have to be made. I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I know that we have a respectful disagreement on that issue.

ELLEN DeGENERES: Yeah, I mean, I think that it’s — it is looked at — and some people are saying the same — that blacks and women did not have the right to vote. I mean, women just got the right to vote in 1920. Blacks didn’t have the right to vote until 1870. And it just feels like there is this old way of thinking that we are not all the same. We are all the same people, all of us. You’re no different than I am. Our love is the same. To me — to me, what it feels like — just, you know, I will speak for myself — it feels — when someone says, “You can have a contract, and you’ll still have insurance, and you’ll get all that,” it sounds to me like saying, “Well, you can sit there; you just can’t sit there.” That’s what it sounds like to me. It feels like — it doesn’t feel inclusive…It feels — it feels isolated. It feels like we are not — you know, we aren’t owed the same things and the same wording.

SENATOR JOHN McCAIN: Well, I’ve heard you articulate that position in a very eloquent fashion. We just have a disagreement. And I, along with many, many others, wish you every happiness.

ELLEN DeGENERES: Thank you. So you’ll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you’re saying?


This exchange shows that McCain is going to do what social conservatives have not done in a generation: he’s going to take the fight to liberals on these issues. He may not win them all over but he will start by gaining their respect and then build on to that.  There is something “Ronald Reagan” about that. 

The two most important issues to social conservatives are the sanctity of life and the protection of traditional marriage. On these two issues, everything else grows.  On these two issues the foundation of our society rests. For social conservatives, the American Dream began to die when we devalued life and the covenant of marriage.  Many liberals will point to the fact that even conservatives have failed at marriage and with their families — but I would say, because the people are imperfect doesn’t mean the institutions aren’t perfect and worth upholding.

John McCain is winning over social conservatives and if he continues going into the lion’s den, then he will gain their support.