A Politician’s Death: Can There Be Political Disagreement, Civility, And Respect At The End Of The Day?
The death of US Senator John McCain has become a magnet for political gossip as well as serious political discussion. Not only was John McCain a media darling and a giant in the political world, who garnered bipartisan respect from Republicans and Democrats alike, he had a temper and never shied away from telling the targets of his rage how he felt about them. For that reason, Senator McCain did not invite sitting US President Donald Trump to his funeral. McCain had his grudges against former President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, both whom McCain competed against for the Presidency, but Trump had openly mocked the Senator, who was tortured as a Vietnam POW. Worse yet, Donald Trump’s controversial and dysfunctional ways have made him an affront to the political system John McCain had served for decades. As part of an effort to send a powerful rebuke, the Senator invited both Obama and Bush to speak at his funeral. McCain open and fiercely disagreed with his political rivals and allies. At the end of the day, however, he was always wiling to work with them to make America great, unlike Trump and his supporters.
When someone dies, particularly a famous person, it is customary to show that person respect and abstain from calling attention to past wrongs. For John McCain, rivals and allies alike have been more than willing to put aside their issues with the Senator in order to honor their friend. There are, of course, always those who will use a person’s death to either publicly air their grievances in the pursuit of closure and those who simply like to vilify the deceased in order to get attention. Clearly, John McCain was far from a saint. To some, for example, McCain was a bloodthirsty warmonger who sought a state of perpetual global war and death. While it is true McCain was a war hawk, he was also an interventionist who truly believed the US military could and should be used to rid the world of brutal dictators and violent extremists. This is evident by the circumstances surrounding the list of war efforts he supported. He believed the US had the power and moral obligation to free the world of tranny and terrorism. Whether his policy positions were right or wrong, John McCain believed government could be a force of good.
With that in mind, Senator McCain had a reputation as a “maverick.” He was not a radical political activist who demanded the abolishment of the modern state in a continual pursuit of political strife. Winning the next election was not his sole objective either. He was as much a statesman as a maverick and politician. While John McCain was a well-established member of America’s ruling class who did everything in his power to preserve and strengthen the US government, he was also someone willing to break away from the pack whenever he felt the need to fight for something. Senator McCain’s reputation was built on a handful of pivotal moments where he stood firmly on his principles, whether right or wrong, against the most powerful men in the world. That meant fighting for campaign finance reform in the face of crushing political pressure and standing against his fellow Republicans in opposition to torture. Ultimately, John McCain was someone who could passionately disagree with his fellow politicians and Americans, even when it came to morally divisive issues, while fostering enough civility and respect to work with them in areas where there was agreement.
Truth to be told, John McCain was not always the most civil man in Washington. The political dialogue between he and George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential Election cycle, for example, devolved into one of the nastiest exchanges of insults witnessed in the political world at that time. It is, however, important to recognize the exchanges between Eighteenth Century and Nineteenth Century political figures were often defined by a slew of slanderous, degrading insults. Even the politicians of the the Eighteenth Century and Nineteenth Century were able to work together. While civility and respect certainly make it easier to work with a rivals, they are not necessary as a long as revivals are working toward a common goal: the building of a nation. The politicians of the early Twentieth Century may have had higher standards of civility, or simply been more sensitive, but American politicians have lost something more than just civility and respect for each other. It is something John McCain never lost.
Despite all of his personal and professional flaws, John McCain was a patriot who respected and upheld the ideals of his country to the best of his ability as a faulted human being. He was a respectful person who respected other people. John McCain was not always the most civil person, but he respected the right of people to disagree and he respected the democratic will of the American People. For that reason, he was able to work with those he thoroughly disagreed with, including those whose positions he found morally offensive, e.g. abortion and torture. In other words, McCain fundamentally believed in democracy and the greater good of building a just society. For that reason, despite his lapses in civility and respectful discourse, he had limits. He would begrudgingly work with Presidents Bush, Obama, and, even, Trump. He would always show some level of civility and respect to those he despised. More and more politicians are ignoring common decency and the limits on their bad behavior, because they no longer share the goal of building a democratic nation. At the end of the day, John McCain was able to make peace with those he disagreed with, because he fought for the greater good. It is something few are able and willing to do these days.
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