Washington Monthly


Roll Call’s Stuart Rothenberg has a column this week that’s drawn some attention, and for good reason. He makes one of the less persuasive arguments I’ve seen in a while.

I have a hunch Rothenberg didn’t quite think this one though before submitting it for publication.

Cravins, he says, isn’t getting a fair shot because of racism is southwest Louisiana. This is comparable to labeling a John McCain presidency as Bush’s third term because, well, Rothenberg just thinks so.

First, part of the problem with Rothenberg’s argument is that he’s debating a strawman. No one is saying McCain would be a third Bush term because of their shared party affiliation — people are saying McCain would be a third Bush term because McCain agrees with Bush on every substantive policy issue on the national (and international) landscape. Indeed, that’s why we’ve seen and heard all the ads about McCain voting with Bush 95% of the time — it’s about record, not partisanship.

Second, Rothenberg’s comparison is largely backwards. If voters were to give Cravins more of a chance, and look at the substantive policy details, they might like what they see. On the other hand, if voters were to give McCain a closer look, and look at the substantive policy details, they’d see his agenda is, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from Bush’s. In other words, upon closer scrutiny, Cravins would dispel preconceived ideas about him being the same as other African-American Democrats. Meanwhile, upon closer scrutiny, McCain would reinforce preconceived ideas about his similarities to conservative Republicans. These are disparate, not comparable, observations.

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