I think folks are asking the wrong question when speculating whether or not conservatives will vote for John McCain. In my neck of the woods (southwest Ohio), conservatives pretty much always vote … yes, even for the lesser of two evils (and yes, we’re used to it). The more relevant question, then, becomes whether or not we will be motivated to get out the vote and drag 50 people with us – and that, quite frankly, will be up to John McCain.

To find that motivation, I compared John McCain with President Bush. Probably not a dime’s worth of ideological disparity between them. And although I was well aware of the major issues upon which the president and I disagreed, with almost supernatural energy and zeal, I eagerly knocked on doors, worked phone banks and spent what time was left trying to determine how we could get every last vote out of our precincts to put him over the top (which we did).

So, what prevents me from taking John McCain to the dance with such enthusiasm? In a phrase: mutual respect. With all of his “swagger” and stubbornness, President Bush never inferred that I was a racist for disagreeing with him on immigration, and certainly never gave the impression that he would have liked to obscenely gesture to conservatives with one hand as he was signing the egregious McCain-Feingold bill with the other. Conversely, if you disagree with John McCain, you’re labeled an uneducated redneck incapable and undeserving of consideration (unless of course you’re a Democrat, in which case he will be happy to reach out and call you “friend”).

Additionally, it is all too familiar and ironic how moderate pundits are already blaming the (conservative) base for providing future political fodder that will be used against McCain. To be clear, John McCain by his own actions has provided that fodder, and if he loses in November, it will be because he failed – no, refused – to reach out and reconcile with said base. This further validates the perception that conservatives are blamed when Republicans lose and forsaken when Republicans win.

Still, if he’s the nominee, I’ll probably vote for John McCain; anyone is infinitely better than the Democrat alternatives. But I’ve got a newsflash for his organization: My vote isn’t going to be enough. He, like any candidate who wants to win, needs the fervor of the base to get out the vote en masse. To do that, and if he truly wants to unite the party, then he should “calm down,” lose that smug sense of entitlement and make clear that he knows what it means to dance with the one who brought him.

Thea Shoemake

Related special offer:

“Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.