The “Maverick” is at it again as Arizona Senator John McCain faces censure by the Republican Party for being too liberal. Long known for his self-described independent streak, McCain has often found himself at odds with the more conservative elements of the GOP. Some conservatives still blame him for the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, arguing that a stauncher conservative would have gained more support and defeated Obama. McCain’s conflicts with conservatives go back many years.
In 2007, McCain worked with the late Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. While the bill included several powerful enforcement components, such as the completion of a fence along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and an expansion of the Border Patrol, it was condemned by conservatives for also including a so-called “path to citizenship.” This was a way for undocumented immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens after passing through a process. It was termed “amnesty” by conservative activists, and McCain faced harsh scrutiny for working with a noted liberal like Kennedy.
This was followed by his difficulties in the 2008 presidential election against Barack Obama. While Obama himself was able to successfully cast McCain as an ally of George W. Bush, even going as far as to call a potential McCain presidency “Bush’s third term,” conservatives also attacked the Republican candidate. They accused him of not taking strong enough positions on key issues such as the aforementioned immigration reform and “hot button” social issues such as abortion. His “moderate” candidacy failed to sufficiently inspire conservatives to turn out and vote for him in the election, leading to a victory for Obama, according to McCain’s conservative critics. This long standing criticism led to the Maverick Arizona senator facing censure by the Republican Party.
McCain has offered no official response to the potential censure as yet. His spokesman Brian Rogers had nothing to say when confronted by reporters today. He is not up for reelection until 2016, at which point McCain will be 80 years old. In October of 2013 he implied that he would run again at that time, but has not made any formal announcement to that effect. It would be McCain’s sixth term in the Senate if he were to run again. Political experts in Arizona do not believe McCain will face any real consequences from voters should the censure pass.
Bruce Merrill, a retired professor from Arizona State University said the censure represents a minority opinion not only of Republicans, but of Arizona citizens in general. He called McCain “so well-respected” by the people of Arizona and the concept of the censure “nonsense.” McCain’s service in the Vietnam War and subsequent POW status also serve to continue to endear him to voters, according to Merrill. Democrats too have been somewhat shocked by the proposed censure. Fred DuVal, a state politician who intends to run for governor in Arizona as a Democrat, called the censure an “outrageous response” and lauded McCain’s efforts on behalf of immigration reform.
While today’s announcement is just the first step in the process, the proposal’s supporters are confident the censure will be passed. This is due to the fact that a similar measure was already passed by the local Republican Party in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county. So Arizona’s maverick Senator John McCain faces censure by his own party for being too liberal.
By Christopher V. Spencer