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03.09.09

My Beef With Ann Coulter

As the pundit begins a series of national debates this week—including an event with Bill Maher last night—Meghan McCain says that having her as the face of the Republican Party is a recipe for disaster.

It is no secret that being a Republican isn’t the most hip political stance a person can take right now. President Obama has successfully established himself as the hippest politician around. You know you’re big when Katy Perry wears a dress with your face on it to host the MTV Europe Music Awards. To my fellow Republicans: I’m sorry, I wish I could be more positive about the current “hipness” of our party. But being a Republican is about as edgy as Donny Osmond. Granted, being “hip” is not a reason to join a political party, or a reason to agree with its ideals. But it is a way to get the attention of a generation—or, more specifically, my generation.

What was she thinking when she said Hillary Clinton was more conservative than my father during the last election?

To make matters worse, certain individuals continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about Republicans. Especially Republican women. Who do I feel is the biggest culprit? Ann Coulter. I straight up don’t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time. But no matter how much you or I disagree with her, the cult that follows Coulter cannot be denied. She is a New York Times best-selling author and one of the most notable female members of the Republican Party. She was one of the headliners at the recent CPAC conference (but when your competition is a teenager who has a dream about the Republican Party and Stephen Baldwin, it’s not really saying that much).

Coulter could be the poster woman for the most extreme side of the Republican Party. And in some ways I could be the poster woman for the opposite. I consider myself a progressive Republican, but here is what I don’t get about Coulter: Is she for real or not? Are some of her statements just gimmicks to gain publicity for her books or does she actually believe the things she says? Does she really believe all Jewish people should be “perfected” and become Christians? And what was she thinking when she said Hillary Clinton was more conservative than my father during the last election? If you truly have the GOP’s best interests at heart, how can you possibly justify telling an audience of millions that a Democrat would be a better leader than the Republican presidential candidate? (I asked Ann for comment on this column, including many of the above questions, but she did not answer my request.)

I am not suggesting that extreme conservatism wasn’t once popular, nor am I suggesting I should in any way be any kind of voice for the party. I have been a Republican for less than a year. Still, even after losing the election, I find myself more drawn to GOP ideals and wanting to fight for the party’s resurgence. And if figureheads like Ann Coulter are turning me off, then they are definitely turning off other members of my generation as well. She does appeal to the most extreme members of the Republican Party—but they are dying off, becoming less and less relevant to the party structure as a whole. I think most people my age are like me in that we all don’t believe in every single ideal of each party specifically. The GOP should be happy to have any young supporters whatsoever, even if they do digress some from traditional Republican thinking.

I’m often criticized for not being a “real” Republican, and I have been called a RINO—Republican In Name Only—in the past. Many say I am not “conservative enough,” which is something that I am proud of. It is no secret that I disagree with many of the old-school Republican ways of thinking. One of the biggest issues from which I seem to drift from the party base is in my support of gay marriage. I am often criticized for previously voting for John Kerry and my support of stem-cell research. For the record, I am also extremely pro-military and a big supporter of the surge and the Iraq war.

More so than my ideological differences with Ann Coulter, I don’t like her demeanor. I have never been a person who was attracted to hate or negativity. I don’t believe in scare tactics and would never condone or encourage anyone calling President Obama a Muslim. But controversy sells and Coulter is nothing if not controversial. Everything about her is extreme: her voice, her interview tactics, and especially the public statements she makes about liberals. Maybe her popularity stems from the fact that watching her is sometimes like watching a train wreck.

I am sure most extreme conservatives and extreme liberals would find me a confusing, walking contradiction. But I assure you, there are many people out there just like me who represent a new, younger generation of Republicans. It took me almost two years of campaigning across this country and hanging out, on a daily basis, with some of the most famous and most intelligent Republicans to fall in love with the Republican Party. If it took that much time and exposure for me to join the party, how can GOP leaders possibly expect to reach young supporters by staying the course they have been on these past eight years? Where has our extreme thinking gotten us? President Bush will go down as one the least popular presidents in history. I constantly hear stories about Republicans who previously worked for President Bush and my father feeling ostracized, unable to get jobs in D.C. right now.

On Monday night Ann Coulter and Bill Maher kicked off a weeklong debate tour. Maybe they will prove me wrong, but this seems more like a traveling circus than a serious debate about the ideological differences between these individuals. I hope viewers understand Ann Coulter is not the woman we Republicans need representing us right now. The GOP is at a crossroads. I love the Republican Party, but if it turns out I am somehow not conservative enough to please its leaders, it makes me wonder—am I then not worthy of even being a member?

Meghan McCain is originally from Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She previously wrote for Newsweek magazine and created the website mccainblogette.com.