It’s been a few days now since John McCain died. I’ve held off on expressing my thoughts because they were complex and conflicting. I needed to ruminate for a while, something I find myself doing more and more in the wake of deaths that effect the social consciousness.
Like most people in their twenties, my first exposure to Senator McCain was in the 2008 Presidential election. I had the benefit of watching this election as a fifteen year-old in England, so I could enjoy the excitement of new candidates whilst remaining distant and unaffected by the outcome.
I knew enough about politics to follow along, but not so much that I was aware of international implications. America was just a big, exciting country that I romanticised — and it was about to elect a new king.
I can’t objectively look back on anything I thought about John McCain at age fifteen. Partly because I can’t remember my exact opinions, and also because I know I’d have been caught up in the hype of the emerging favourite in Barak Obama.
Obama stood for a lot of the things that I still stand for, so it’s likely that I didn’t form a well-rounded opinion of McCain. It was probably just a lot of “Republican? Boooo!” You know, the levels of political analysis that should be reserved for teenagers, but unfortunately isn’t.
That video, from the 2008 campaigns, has gone viral over the last week. I don’t remember this moment from ten years ago, as I likely dismissed the idea of paying any attention to a candidate that wasn’t the one I ideologically supported. Again, I was fifteen, and my only access to US politics was watching illegal streams of The Daily Show with John Stewart.
McCain respectfully shutting down nonsense accusations about his direct opponent seem like an impossible memory when compared to Trump in 2016. Not just in reactions, but also the fact that Trump’s team (Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Steve Bannon) were creating these accusations and circulating them for political gain. A lot changed for the Republican party in eight years.
McCain puts it perfectly at the end of the video, “He’s a decent family man, citizen, than I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.” That’s the sort of politics I miss, where candidates could still hold a respect for one another whilst debating policy.
The two people who ask questions in that video are just waiting for a candidate like Trump to come about — the woman in the video has even already bought into one of Trump’s conspiracy theories. The current presidency simply saw a gap in the voter market, in the form of people who will fall for anything if it means keeping the people out of power whom they don’t ideologically agree with.
Looking back on the proposed policy of McCain’s 2008 campaign, and how he voted in key senate decisions — the man was a classic post-Reagan Republican. His policies would’ve served the rich and ignored those on the breadline, and he wanted to wage war at every turn in order to gain political favour at home.
He was also pro-life, a position I fully respect as an individual belief, but against birth-control and sex education — two policies that are proven to reduce the numbers on pre-marital sex and abortions carried out in the US; Aka, my favourite right-wing logical inconsistency.
Despite the fact that I opposed him on nearly every political issue, McCain carried himself with respect. If the Trump presidency has taught me one thing, it’s that I’ve learned to find respect and common ground with those who I disagree with ideologically, who also treat my opinions with equal respect.
If Trump was as polite as McCain, I wouldn’t be as concerned for the future of America. It would just be a business-as-usual Republican presidency — one where we can complain but not have to listen to racist, sexist and insulting rants. Trump’s policy can be fought against, repealed/upheld and voted for in democratic process. His opinions and personality are there for the world to see, and America is one big joke right now.
In recent years McCain started to turn his back on emerging dominant ideologies of his party, particularly after Trump attacked him during an interview in 2015. Trump stated that McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured and served five years in a POW camp. This coming from the man who dodged the draft.
Personally, I know I’m not brave enough to be put into situations where I’d have to kill other human’s for my country — but I’d never disrespect anyone who was put into that situation (often through no choice of their own).
McCain became known as something of a maverick in his final years, voting against Trump on most issues. This included blocking the repeal of certain healthcare reforms put in place by the Obama administration, a policy that McCain disagreed with.
Some would argue that he was letting his hatred for Trump get in the way of his own, personal beliefs — but I would argue that he was defending one of his long-held principals, which is how anti-insult politics he was.
I don’t want a democracy that’s filled with millions of people who agree with each other on absolutely everything. I want debate, discussion and open dialogue. I’d rather America had a four or five party system, for better, more proportional representation — but the two-party race doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
McCain may have been many things, and a man who held many beliefs and opinions that I disagree with — but it appears as though he would’ve respected my right to disagree with him, and not insult me for it. I’ll take an opposition party filled with people like McCain over the current, twisted alternative — Any day.
If McCain is to have a legacy, it should be his defence of the respectful democratic process and a representation of the fact that the “swamp” wasn’t entirely a swamp. Some lifelong public servants were proud to represent the people who brought them to the dance — and I believe John McCain was one of them.
Today is Tuesday, August 28th and Great British Bake Off starts again this evening — the only show that makes my American friends mimmic my accent.
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