The brashness of youth


In Dirty Sexy Politics, Nashville-lover Meghan McCain, Senator John McCain’s only daughter, recounts her experience of the ’08 presidential campaign. A free thinker like her father, she peppers her writing with suggestions about where the Republican Party should be heading, far away from intolerant members of the Religious Right and social conservatives. With genuine candor, she does not shy away from describing herself as a modern, humane, determined moderate Republican. Accused of being a RINO – Republican In Name Only – because she supports same-sex marriage, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and contraceptive sex education, she also believes in small government and lower taxes, and a strong national defense against terrorism. An all-American girl from Arizona, she admits to not fitting the bill of a senior Republican politician’s daughter-of.

Perhaps the most striking element in this book is her naivete and, at times, the brashness of youth she embodies. While she assures us she has grown up since the campaign, and did not engage in ”crazysex” at work (i.e. random encounters ubiquitous in stressful environments like political campaigns), the book gives an account of how she learns to deal with bullies and smear campaigns. On Steve Schmidt, her father’s infamously ornery political strategist, she bluntly admits, ‘I was an irritating insect to him, and one that he wished would fly away – or drop dead’. Further, on smear campaigns, she says matter-of-factly, ‘The trick, I think, is to remain humane and just forgive.’

The flip side, obviously, is her lack of experience and her raw feelings. She looks up to Barry Goldwater, even though he did not support the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the same reasons she laughs at Rand Paul on TV. She confesses to high jinks played on her dad’s speechwriter, Mark Saltzer. She also tends to take it all a bit too personally, sobs whenever she feels ostracized, and occasionally gives in to snapping. Unschooled in groupthink – which she regards as counter to individual freedom – she recounts being asked to leave. With unrelenting resilience, she weathered through the storm on her own bus tour across another part of the country, revelling in the wide readership of her once-deemed ”irreparable” blog.

Undaunted and energized, Meghan McCain now openly takes on the big elephant – both the emblem of the Republican Party and the beast she has to tame to feel like herself. A moderate Republican, she hopes to become a role model for young conservatives who feel at odds with the Ann Coulter type. Because of her youth, she is also particularly suited to engaging with young voters without giving the impression of lording it over. In under 200 pages, she offers us a heartfelt confession and a truly enjoyable read, from a refreshingly youthful perspective.

Victor Stepien is a member of the Tennessee Equality Project.