John Weaver hunches his angular frame over a Styrofoam cup of coffee in the basement cafeteria of the United States Senate and tries to explain what might seem–to an outsider–his peculiar political loyalties. Once a loyal Republican strategist who directed the presidential aspirations of über-conservative Phil Gramm and helped plot John McCain’s maverick primary run in 2000, he has since reregistered as a Democrat and severed consulting ties to all Republicans except McCain, for whom he still serves as chief strategist. “I only work for Democrats now,” he tells me. Noticing that he has overlooked the party affiliation of his most prominent advisee, I helpfully add: “And John McCain.” Weaver shrugs his shoulders and grins, “Oh, right.”

It’s easy to forget that the Arizona senator is not, in fact, a Democrat. In the past year he has stood against his party on so many prominent and contentious issues that his concurrences with GOP dogma have become more of an exception than a rule. In the conservative media, he has become a figure of vilification on par with Tom Daschle. Last fall, when his name came up in a meeting of House Republicans, he was booed. And it is no exaggeration to say that he has co-sponsored virtually the entire domestic agenda of the Democratic Party. One prominent Democrat enthuses, “He’s the leader of the loyal opposition.” Typically that role falls to a leader of the opposition party. But the most popular and effective champion of the Democratic Party’s values isn’t Tom Daschle. It’s John McCain. And at a moment when the party is casting about for a leader to define it against a popular president, and McCain is casting about for a home after his virtual expulsion from the GOP, there is an obvious solution to both dilemmas: John McCain ought to become a Democrat–and a presumptive front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination in 2004.

Source: The New Republic Online: What’s in a Name?

Category: Espresso

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