The new issue of the Weekly Standard carries several interesting articles. Most entertaining is Noemie Emery’s article on the subject we have frequently considered here, “The Kerry-McCain fantasy.” (The article is unavaible to non-subscribers.) Emery lists five factors that make McCain a “headache” (rather than a fantasy) as Kerry’s possible vice president.
The first factor discussed by Emery is “It’s all about him”: “The minute the announcement is made, Kerry ceases to matter. McCain would overshadow anyone, and Kerry, who already has a tendency to blend into the wallpaper, would become a bit player in his own campaign.”
The second is “The vice president rules” — the power McCain would wield: “[T]he roles of the president and his ranking subordinate would be reversed. For the first time, a president would owe his office to his vice president, and both men would know it. ”
The third factor discussed by Emery is McCain’s termperament:
No major figure since Theodore Roosevelt has been less suited by temperament for the vice president’s job. He is not left, right, or center so much as a devout contrarian, a flamboyant maverick, cut out by fate to butt heads with authority, never so happy as when giving the finger to those in charge. There is a good reason why McCain is not now the president, and it has nothing to do with South Carolina: He has made a career out of lobbing grenades at the base of his party, with which he quite often agrees. Who else would go out of his way to annoy potential supporters? Who else would go into Virginia and launch an attack on social conservatives? In a Republican primary?
The fourth factor is fitting the square peg of McCain into the round hole of the Democratic Party:
[T]o graft the head of McCain onto the body of the current Democratic party is to perform an operation that risks organ-rejection. The party’s base is pacifist, feminist, hostile to the use of American power, and suspicious of force. Its biggest sources of money and manpower are the teachers’ unions and trial lawyers. Its articles of faith are unrestricted abortion and identity politics, and the groups that promote these are accustomed to veto power. How would they react to a pro-life Republican parachuted in behind their lines?…Would the base fight back? Or–Hello, Ralph Nader!–would it start to move out? Under any scenario, today’s party would crack, shift, or shatter. It might contract, or expand, but it would certainly not stay the same.
The fifth factor is “Dissonance,” a variation of the fourth in light of the party’s base voters:
Nothing is more certain to enrage progressives, who would then find themselves in a dreadful dilemma–which of the two do they loathe more deeply, Bush’s ideas or George Bush? If they hate Bush’s ideas, they may choke on McCain, and then go third party. If they hate Bush himself, they may go with McCain, but at the cost of making their party more Bush-like, and cutting into their own hold on power. If they go with McCain, they become a war party, something their base must regard with true horror.
Emery herself does not call a Kerry-McCain ticket a fantasy. In that sense her article is not predictive. However, Emery does predict the impact Kerry’s selection of McCain as his vice presidential candidate would have.
While one can quibble with this or that element of Emery’s analysis, I think the analysis effectively highlights the cynicism that would be necessary for Kerry to select McCain and for McCain to accept. Isn’t that a factor that makes the notion of a Kerry-McCain ticket highly plausible?