Wednesday, January 23, 2008

McCain: Keeping GOP Alive

Between Thursday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 29, the day of the Florida Republican Primary, I'll be writing several columns on John McCain. Right now, he's the best -- and most electable -- of the GOP candidates. In my columns, I'd like to tackle some of the tough issues, including Senator McCain's stance on comprehensive immigration reform and on campaign finance reform. I believe he's generally right on both of them.

Sometimes what appears to be the "conservative" position isn't the sound one -- or the correct one. A classic case is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, strongly supported by Lyndon Johnson and just as strongly opposed by Barry Goldwater. In the election of 1964, Goldwater was swamped by Johnson, and a number of fine conservative legislators "drowned" along with the presidential nominee.

Yes, the Civil Rights Act interfered with the "freedoms" of some owners of hotels, restaurants, and the like. But the freedom to deny service to Black people and their families was not a "liberty" anyone should possess. Thus, Goldwater was wrong, and Johnson was right.

The controversy over the Act did great damage to the Republican Party, lasting damage. It meant the GOP lost the Black vote -- and apparently that loss is permanent. In presidential elections, the Republican candidate is lucky to get 6%-8% of the Black vote. That makes it nearly impossible to win several important states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, and California. Also, there are 40-plus Black members of Congress (including one Senator, Obama), and none of them is a Republican.

That sad, enduring situation traces back more than 40 years to Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

As we examine John McCain's positions on various issues, we find him seeking -- often imperfectly -- to keep the Republican Party from repeating the mistakes of the Goldwater era. Frankly, he doesn't want his Party, however good its intentions, to become a Permanent Minority.

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