Ancient Mavericks of the Future


Michael Crowley's brief travelogue with the McCain campaign reminded me of some of TNR's more starry-eyed McCain coverage of the past. Jonathan Chait, in particular, was given to arguing that McCain's Teddy Roosevelt progressivism would make him a natural Democrat. I poked around for a 2000 piece on that theme and instead found Chait's fingers-crossed essay about McCain running for the Democratic nomination in 2004. Most of it is about domestic policy and electability, but then there's this:

[T]he most prominent feature of Democratic foreign policy since September 11 is that there isn't much of one. Yes, a couple Democrats–mostly old cranks like Robert Byrd and Hollings–have worried about an open-ended conflict; but others–such as Lieberman–have staked out terrain to Bush's right. The general mood among Democrats in Washington is to lay low on foreign affairs and to confront Bush in the domestic arena. Not only does this mean that McCain's hawkishness would pose little barrier to his nomination; it also presents him with an opportunity to determine what kind of Democratic foreign policy will emerge in the wake of the war on terror. And here McCain has a chance to shape the future of American politics–which, like all things historical, can be highly contingent. After all, if Franklin Roosevelt hadn't replaced Henry Wallace with Harry Truman as his vice president, the Democratic Party would not have built its policy of containment in the two decades after World War II. In the post-post Vietnam era now beginning, McCain could redefine the Democratic Party once again as the champion of Wilsonian interventionism.

This now seems unlikely.

Matt Welch's immortal McCain profile is right here.