By Fernanda Diaz
In a 2007 Salon piece about Meghan McCain’s debut into the mainstream, her father, John McCain, responded to a question about whether he approved of his daughter’s openness about her tattoo and music tastes on her blog project about the campaign trail. In retrospect, his answer seems almost prophetic: "She’s having fun. I want her to enjoy the campaign. It’s once in a lifetime. And then I want her to get a job."
Almost a full year after McCain lost the election, Ms. McCain, age 24, seems to like sticking with the "fun" part and only teasing us about the "job" part. It’s possible that she’s under the impression that the practice of generating baseless buzz constitutes a politically-minded career, but it seems like the right time to agree, as her audience and generational peers, that it’s not enough.
Meghan McCain has spent the first part of her 20s in the spotlight mostly by choice. Tweeting and “straight-talking”; around the campaign bus and a handful of talk-show panels and chronicling it all on McCainBlogette.com, she fulfilled her self-imposed desire to contribute to the campaign “on her own terms.” Her “youthful” and “independent” take on the campaign amounted to two parts blogging, one part sex, and only a teaspoon of politics–a recipe that produced a lot of buzz but no coherent statement out of its tantalizing ingredients.
In the beginning, her boldness was admirable. It was vague and sparkly, sure, but it was a boldness that wasn’t rooted in prejudice or neo-con dogma, and this was sufficient to hint at a positive future as a young Republican for a new era. She was the alt-rock to Sarah Palin’s folk, and how could that be a bad thing?
Unfortunately, when her father’s campaign ended, her own kept going in an ambiguous and overexposed direction. As a member of the celebutante punditry, she has done her job–but what about her role as a member of the political youth? Our generation is defined by the record numbers of political engagement–voting, volunteering, even just clicking petitions online. McCain has embraced the world of virtual and 24-hour debate, but embracing it is only the first step.
So far, McCain has a commendable urgency to speak but a maddening lack of preparation. Her hair remains perfectly shaped as her arguments fizzle, evidenced by the fact that her punditry career hasn’t risen above debate killers like: “I wasn’t born yet, so I don’t know,” “No one knows what war is like other than my family,” and “Let’s agree to disagree.” If her political “activism” continues to amounts to confusing columns on The Daily Beast about her pro-sex but pro-life views and defensive comments about body image, not even her gaffes will continue to get attention. And that will be a waste of all her efforts.
I’ve liked McCain for as long as I’ve known about her–she graduated from my marginally-Marxist Alma Mater, Columbia University, she uses as many “likes” in her speech as most of the people I know, and she loves talking about her curves, the internet, and beer. But there was always a grain of unfulfilled promise that grew as fast as she tweeted, and it irks me to see her resorting to easy references to her emotions and her ironic Republican-ness much more often than to weighty facts, figures, and reporting.
When her personality quirks morphed into her entire message, it became clear that this was preventing her from expanding into more substantive discussion. She has made her views about herself be the message, individualistically and obsessively, as any good Republican might do. That may have been cute during the campaign, but it was tolerable because it had a very specific goal in mind: help elect her father president. Now that she has gained the power of influence, she needs a new goal, stat.
Meghan McCain has everything going for her, since she doesn’t seem to be fazed by criticism, has the perfect look for TV, and has virtually no competition. Now all she needs are some issues to care about and passionately articulate on–regardless of whether they’re about her breasts or troop escalation–in a way that reflects her progressive views as a Republican instead of her progressive skills at internet celebrity.