They argue that McCain has been “too polite to the right,” and as a result has been led to propose some pretty misguided economic policy–or maybe I should say “purely guided by (bad) politics” economic policy. My emphasis added, here’s The Economist’s critique:
…[I]t is on domestic policy that Mr McCain has tacked to the right more disquietingly. Doubtless he feels he needs to shore up his support among the conservatives who mistrust him. But the result is that he could easily alienate the independent supporters who are his great strength. Mr Obama will sensibly hope to woo them away.
Mr McCain used to be a passionate believer in limited government and sound public finances; a man with some distaste for conservative Republicanism and its obsession with reproductive matters. On the stump, though, he has offered big tax cuts for business and the rich that he is unable to pay for, and he is much more polite to the religious right, whom he once called “agents of intolerance”. He has engaged in pretty naked populism, too, for instance in calling for a “gas-tax holiday”. If this is all just a gimmick to keep his party’s right wing happy, it may disappear again. But that is quite a gamble to take.
Two months remain before the election, more than enough time for Mr McCain to allay some of these worries. He needs to spend less time reassuring evangelicals that he agrees with them about abortion and gay marriage, and more time having another look at his tax plans. The old John McCain attacked Mr Bush for his tax cuts, which he said were unaffordable. The new John McCain not only wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, but wants to add to them by virtually eliminating estate tax (something that would benefit a tiny number of very rich families, like his own). He also proposes to slash corporation tax. People on middle incomes would see little benefit. Independent analysts agree that Mr McCain’s plans would increase an already huge deficit.
Hawkish foreign policy, irresponsible tax cuts, more talk about religion and abortion: all this sounds too much like Bush Three, the label the Democrats are trying to hang around the Republican’s neck. We preferred McCain One.
That McCain’s excessive politeness to the far right will hurt his chances of attracting the independent vote–or at least independent voters who have centrist views on economic policy–is surely true. (That’s what I mean by it being guided by bad politics.) …And to think that The Economist thought this even before Sarah Palin was added to the ticket! (This is the print edition’s cover story that arrived in my mailbox this weekend.)