Personal Politics: The Importance of John McCain
John McCain and his recent passing are important for a number of reasons. This is largely because McCain appears to be a symbol of the distant civility and moderate bi-partisanship of American party politics. His passing, and the way the world has reacted reacted to it, illuminates this.
Elections can get dirty, unsavoury and often malicious as we found in 2016. However, there was a time when elections weren’t like that. John McCain was a Republican Senator for Arizona, who ran against Barack Obama for Presidency of the United States in 2008. During the campaign disagreements in their politics were made abundantly clear, but this did not lead to disputes about their person, whether that be their character, appearance or ability.
At a Republican rally in 2008, McCain responded to one audience member who was “scared” of an Obama presidency by saying “I have to tell you, you do not have to be scared of him as President of the United States” despite facing the displeasure of the crowd. More importantly, McCain also combatted an early spectre of ‘fake news’ when answering a question from an audience member who said “I can’t trust Obama, I have read about him and he is not…he is not……he is an Arab”
McCain responded respectfully “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, who I just happened to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about”.
This demonstration – as obvious as it may seem – in today’s current political climate, needs to be remembered.
In an atmosphere of fake news, dogs and lies, politics in the U.S. has become more personal than ever before. So much so that it is dangerous. Not only was this apparent several times during the 2016 presidential elections but it's also continued throughout the Trump administration.
McCain demonstrated further civility after his electoral defeat, through his conduct afterwards. Relationships between political opponents are not supposed to be perfect, but there’s a degree of decorum that McCain and Obama demonstrated, that is in danger of being forgotten in future elections.
Relationships between opponents are important because political opponents are fighting for leadership. These leaders set a precedent for not only their successors, but also for their citizens. If leaders with striking political differences cannot treat each other with a mutual degree of respect, how can Republican and Democrat citizens do so? How can different news outlets do so? And so forth.
Therefore McCain's life and death should be utilized as a symbol for what was once the standard in moderate bi-partisan party politics.
To watch the exchange at the 2008 Republican Rally described above click here. (CNN).