mcCain

John McCain, please spare us

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Recently, Senator John McCain of Arizona was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer. John McCain served his country first as a soldier, who was unbroken as a prisoner of war under the Vietcong for 7 long years. And now for the last 35 years, McCain has served his country as a member of the House, a United States Senator. Cancer is a horrible disease that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, I know McCain will face the challenges of this illness with courage as every afflicted person does, and I wish him the best.

But John McCain is a hypocrite, and how dare he pontificate about the lack of leadership and the rise of partisanship in Washington. McCain, perhaps more than any other Republican, is directly responsible for legitimizing the brand of politics that would eventually pave the way for the Tea Party & Donald Trump.

There was a time when the GOP could be separated into two camps. There were Republicans, whether they be conservative like Reagan or liberal like Rockefeller. It was accepted that these people had beliefs that were rooted in small government and the free market. Right or wrong on policy, almost always wrong, one knew that these people were rational actors who could govern. Then there was the crazy caucus, comprised of your right-wing reactionaries, your racists, your Christian fundamentalists, and assorted invalids. These were your Jesse Helms, Pat Buchanans, and Pat Roberts. These people might win a primary or two, win a senate race in a conservative state, or even find themselves in the cabinet. But these people had no credibility, the Republican party was not their party, and no matter how the base was changing, Republicans made an effort not to give those people platforms unless absolutely necessary (like 1992, when Bush Sr. allowed Pat Buchanan to speak at the RNC and he declared a “culture war”).

But in 2008, when John McCain won the Republican nomination and was tasked with picking a running mate, he unleashed Pandora’s box. I don’t buy that McCain was forced into making the decision that he did, or that there were no alternatives. If John McCain was determined to have a woman on the ticket, he could’ve picked Lisa Murkowski (also from Alaska) or Olympia Snowe. If he was determined to pick a woman with governing experience, he could’ve picked former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. But no, John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Every time McCain talks about the need for responsible leadership, remember he thought Sarah Palin was the best qualified person to succeed him should he be unable to serve as President.

Every time McCain talks about the need for responsible leadership, remember he thought Sarah Palin was the best qualified person to succeed him should he be unable to serve as President.

Every time the media plays that clip of McCain defending Obama against rumors that he was secretly a Muslim, remember Sarah Palin was the one saying “Obama was palling around with terrorists” and “he doesn’t see America like you and I see America”.

Every time McCain wants to bemoan the rising partisanship, remember it was his running mate who would call Obama a socialist and decry the impending collapse of America.

Every time McCain expresses concern about Trump, remember Sarah Palin rallied her base, the base that exists solely because of John McCain, behind Donald Trump during the GOP Primaries.

Because John McCain allowed Sarah Palin to be introduced to a general election audience, it made Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain seem palatable four years later. These were people from the crazy caucus. Mitt Romney, an occasionally reasonable person (who turned out to be right about Russia) was even forced to adopt some of the more inflammatory rhetoric from the crazy caucus just to solidify his base.  Romney was even forced to whore himself out for the endorsement of a tiny-fingered vulgarian who also happened to be a failed steak salesman (more on him later). That was only necessary for Romney because for years that person had been the leading voice behind the racist lie that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

It was to be expected that after eight years of leadership by people like Allen West, Steve King, and Louie Gohmert, that the crazy caucus would become a dominating force in the GOP. Because of Palin, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, and Alex Jones are relevant political figures. Let’s be clear, an environment where Donald Trump could become the nominee would not have existed had it not been for Sarah Palin paving the way for this new wave of idiocy. She laid the cornerstone, took the slings and arrows, and blew the dog whistle louder than George Wallace, so that one day someone of her ilk might be considered Presidential. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were once considered the reasonable Republicans in 2016….Ted Cruz actually believes that George Soros is conspiring with the UN to eliminate private property so he can build golf courses, and Marco Rubio calls the West Bank “Judea and Samaria” because he subscribes to Christian apocalypse theory. These were the reasonable people, and together with Trump they won 81% of GOP primary voters.

Sarah Palin emboldened the crazy caucus, and John McCain emboldened Sarah Palin. These people and their racism were dormant for decades, and McCain’s choices have brought them to the forefront of our politics with consequences that will be seen for a generation.

Even if you could excuse McCain for his choice of Sarah Palin, and the residual effects nearly a decade later, there’s still the matter of McCain’s voting record. John McCain is as Republican as any member of congress, he may talk a big game, but he’s voted with his party nearly 90% of the time since he’s been in the Senate.

Every time we talk about all the sacrifices John McCain made for this country, remember he’s been more than willing to sacrifice the lives of a lot of other people’s children by sending them to war.

Every time McCain talks about defeating ISIS and responsible foreign policy, remember he voted for the Iraq War, which directly resulted in the creation of ISIS, and his signing of the Iran letter in a desperate attempt to undercut the nuclear deal.

Every time McCain talks about compassion, remember he’s been trying to privatize Social Security and the social safety net for years.

Every time McCain talks about the struggles he’s had with his health, remember the vote he cast to proceed with debate on a bill that would deprive at least 22 million people of their healthcare. What even allowed him to even get his diagnosis in time was pre-screening, which is encouraged under Obamacare, which he wants to repeal.

Every time McCain talks about normalcy, remember the day he returned to the senate to be the deciding vote to proceed on debating a bill that nobody read or understands what they’re debating.

Every time McCain criticizes Trumps rhetoric about immigrants and walls, remember McCain ran ads saying “complete the danged fence!”

Every time there’s a new revelation about Russia and McCain feigns concern, remember McCain endorsed Trump for months and still endorses the Trump agenda even if he doesn’t approve of the man.

That speech he gave in front of the senate Tuesday, was worse than just political theater, it was delusion disguised as hypocrisy wrapped in a platitude. It was a man, who lived the life of Chamberlain and thinks he’ll be remembered as Churchill. McCain could use what might be his final months to redeem himself, actually be the man behind the words, and be the principled person we all want him to be. But he won’t, because that’s not John McCain, and it never will be.

He’s a hero because he pretends to be a maverick? I like people who are actually mavericks.

Reece Ellis Reece Ellis (12 Posts)

Reece Ellis is a senior at Hazelwood East High school in St. Louis, and will be majoring in political science at Truman State University. He worked as a deputy field organizer for the Missouri Democratic Party in 2016.