Monday, April 20, 2009

And a child shall lead them: Meghan McCain rocks the house

The Republican Party, eager if not straight-up desperate to find someone to fill its existential vacuum and speak truth to power in the age of Twitter, may have found its salvation in an apple who did not fall far from the tree.

Meghan McCain? You go girl.

With a steadily escalating profile in interviews and online, the 24-year-old daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain is proving herself to be that rarity in Republican politics: someone with the ovarian fortitude to stand up and dismiss the old guard, saying things about the GOP the GOP leadership wouldn’t dare volunteer. With no promises to keep or fears of excommunication from the rock-ribbed right, she’s been speaking with a candor that spans generational lines — just what the Republicans need. If only they’ll listen.

Hurricane Meghan most recently surfaced at a weekend address before the Log Cabin Republicans in Washington, McCain squarely confronted the generational divide the GOP has failed to either acknowledge or work to correct. The high point of the address was a three-point cri de coeur, one the party elders can’t sweep under the rug.

“Number one, most of our nation wants our nation to succeed. Number two, most people are ready to move on to the future, not live in the past. Number three, most of the old-school Republicans are scared shitless of that future.”

It doesn’t get much plainer than that, folks. All the GOP position papers and think-tank studies, all the surveys and talking points and speculations about the Future of the Party come down to those forty-one words.

◊ ◊ ◊

With that succinct call to arms, McCain issued a firm slap to the head of conservative voice box Jabba the Rush Limbaugh, presented a sketch (if not a blueprint) for the party’s future, and put the graybeards of the GOP on notice that anything less than openly embracing that American future would court more of the disasters the party’s endured since 2006.

Some party water carriers get the point. “Some of the things she articulated are really emblematic of the issues the party’s facing right now,” said Republican strategist Doug Heye, today on MSNBC. “What she said should give Republicans something to think about.”

McCain has taken rhetorical 2x4s to the heads of conservative darlings before. In recent months in interviews and in her writing on The Daily Beast and other appearances, she’s taken on conservative pit-bull apologists Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, and the rigidity of Republican thinking generally.

She made many of the same Log Cabin address points in a March 23 interview with Larry King on CNN. “I think that’s the problem right now, is that the party is without a leader and sort of without a vision.”

Clearly, outspokenness isn’t specific to the Y chromosome of the McCain family DNA. Sen. McCain has long developed a reputation as something of a too-plain-spoken battler in Congress; the halls of the Senate ring with stories of McCain’s mercurial temper showing itself, the senator involved in one rhetorical or physical scrap or another. As we know.

But with the younger McCain, that scrappiness is wrapped in a package of smoothly delivered political pragmatism that belies the youth of the one expressing it. And maybe that’s the point — that someone so young gets it, understands intuitively what the Republicans need to be contenders again, makes this viewpoint exactly what they need. This is more than reaching across the proverbial aisle; Meghan McCain’s throwdown is a dare to the GOP to rethink what it is, from the ground up. If she decides to go that way, she may be a better politician than her father ever was.

Hey Boehner, Kantor, Gingrich, Rush the Hutt! Want a vision for the possible future of the GOP? Meghan McCain may have laid one out in the King interview, when the Venerable One on CNN asked her how she defined herself politically. “I consider myself a progressive Republican. I am liberal on social issues, and I think the party is at a place where social issues shouldn’t be the issues that define the party.”

Want another blueprint to the future? Listen to what Meghan McCain told the Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday — the way she blends party orthodoxy with the individuality of the electorate:

“I am proud to join you in challenging this mold and the notions of what being what a Republican means. I am concerned about the environment. I wear a lot of black. I think that government is best when it stays out of people’s lives and businesses as much as possible. I love punk rock music. I believe in a strong national defense. I have a tattoo. I believe government should always be efficient and accountable. I have lots and lots of gay friends, and yes, I am a Republican.”

Maybe the Republicans need a tweak of the Bible’s advice, something straight outta Isaiah, more or less:

If thou seekest to depart from thy wilderness, yea, take ye the hand of the fair maiden who cometh from the desert, and the child shall lead ye out. And the lion shall dwell with the lamb, and the elephant shall lie down with the donkey — for thy party’s sake.
Image credits: Meghan McCain: Still from MSNBC video. McCain statement: From MSNBC.

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