In today’s WSJ, Mark Helprin, takes aim at talk radio show hosts who keep hammering away at John McCain. Helprin argues that “Ostracism following tests of ‘right thinking’ is a specialty of the left” and writes that, “John McCain, even though he is conservative has an 80% positive rating from the American Conservative Union but who as a truly independent soul does not fit, at the margins, some of the transient notions of what makes a conservative”
The choice, to Helprin is:
One can agree or disagree with his peripheral positions, but political orthodoxy is political death. If those who are in a hissy fit about Sen. McCain would rather have Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, they will get Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton — how delightful to go to jail for building your house on land once visited by an exotic moth — and they will wake up to a great regret, as if in their drunkenness they had taken Shrek to bed.
I agree with Helprin that one of the negative aspects of talk radio is that there’s often the echo chamber effect, whereby conservatives can no longer engage in serious challenging debates with each other because anybody who disagrees with what is considered conservative orthodoxy is driven out of the movement. And I do think that the hatred of McCain is overblown, especially given the fact that talk radio got behind Mitt Romney, whose conservative credentials, in my view, were even more suspect.
However, I would take issue with some of what Helprin said, because I don’t think that all of the problems conservatives have with McCain are “peripheral.” While I’ve been more sympathetic to McCain than some because national security concerns trump everything else in my mind, I respect the fact that a lot of conservatives who are opposing McCain are doing so because they believe it is important to put their principles ahead of blind loyalty to the Republican Party. I think that’s a good thing. In the end, most conservatives will get behind McCain, given the alternatives. But it doesn’t mean that have to do so after the first date–they may as well play hard to get and see what other concessions they can extract from him.