Conservatives who have opposed McCain during the campaign have cited his positions on a range of issues — immigration, campaign finance, climate change, tax cuts, legal rights for detainees — where he has sided with Democrats.
But the positions McCain has taken are only part of the problem for conservatives.
As president, with a Democratic Congress, it is the other part — the stylistic part — that will prove to be a much greater problem for conservatives.
When McCain has been on the conservative side, as he has been on the vast majority of issues, he gives it full-throated support. He is not afraid of giving offense to appropriators when he sticks up for cutting spending, and he has not been shy about deriding Democrats who oppose the war in Iraq, to cite two potent examples.
But when he is with the Democrats, he is really with them. McCain is not someone who simply reaches across the aisle to form coalitions with the other side. He walks across the aisle, puts on the other team’s uniform and sings the other team’s fight song.
If he wants to accomplish things — and every president wants to accomplish things — he will have to do so on the Democrats’ terms.
That means his agenda will include those things on which he agrees with the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate:
• A cap and trade regime for climate change.
• Expansion of McCain-Feingold regulations for campaign finance.
• Expanded legal rights for enemy combatants, and probably the closing of Guantanamo.
• Comprehensive immigration overhaul, with a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.
This will not be a “reaching across the aisle.” This will be a full partnership of the president and the Congress, who just happen to be of different parties. The shrunken GOP minority in the Senate might serve as a brake, especially on immigration. But it will be only a brake, not a standing astride history yelling “stop!”
Compare and contrast (excerpt from same article):
In his victory speech on Super Tuesday, McCain laid out his GOP credentials.
“I am a Republican because, like you, I want to relieve the American people of the heavy hand of a government,” he said. “I am a Republican because, like you, I believe government must defend our nation’s security wisely and effectively,” he said. “I am a Republican because I believe, like you, that government should tax us no more than necessary, spend no more than necessary,” he promised.
And, he said, “I am a Republican because I believe the judges we appoint to the federal bench must understand that enforcing our laws, not making them, is their only responsibility.”
Except that he's likely to be so busy selling out conservatives on the things the Democrats want that he's unlikely to be able to push back on those same Democrats for the conservative values (lower taxation, less government, non-activist judges and strong defense) that he claims he wants too. The Democrats are willing to accept compromise from opponents but never offer it in return (unless their re-election prospects are on the line): they're funny that way.