McCain died Saturday at age 81 – just days after publicly saying he was giving up on treatments for brain cancer – which means he managed to live for an extra decade of life beyond the political defeat that some will forevermore remember him.
AS IN THAT 2008 loss in the presidential election cycle to Barack Obama. McCain is the long-time senator from Arizona whom the ideologues will always want to badmouth for losing to the bi-racial Obama.
In fact, it was because of McCain’s desire to gain the votes of more socially conservative-leaning people amongst Republican voters that the senator went through a campaign strategy of trying to cover up what could have been his strong point in attracting voters from amongst Democrats to the GOP.
I’m talking about immigration – as in a serious effort to undergo the comprehensive reform of federal immigration policy so as to erase the bureaucratic mess that it has evolved into.
Of course, there are those amongst us who, back then and even moreso now today, think immigration “reform” ought to consist solely of an increase in the number of people of non-Anglo ethnic origins who ought to face deportation from the United States.
THOSE ARE THE people most giving aid and comfort to this Age of Trump we’re now in.
But back in the early 2000s, there was the effort to try to push for serious immigration reform – with McCain being the leader amongst Republicans working with then-Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to push for such an initiative.
That effort failed, and when then-President George W. Bush expressed support for it, that was the beginning of his own demise in the polls. As though Republican voters viewed any support as a treasonous act.
Which is why when McCain made his second all-in attempt to become president (remember he lost the 2000 GOP primary to Bush), he had to figure out how to overcome his support for the issue. He didn’t want to be D.O.A. at the beginning of his campaign activity.
THAT LED TO him making public statements early on about how he was no longer pushing for such initiatives. How he would now become inclined to tout Republican-friendly thoughts when it came to “dose damned foreigners,” which is how many of the ideologues think about this issue. He took up the talk of “securing the borders” while backing off the rhetoric about increased opportunity for people to become U.S. citizens.
It may have led to him getting the Republican nomination in ’08, but killed off any chance of him winning the general election – even though in the beginning Obama wasn’t exactly viewed as the favorite of people to whom immigration reform was a priority.
Perhaps sticking to his guns could have led McCain to having a chance of succeeding that year. Particularly since many of the ideologue types ultimately were only swayed over to McCain when he picked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running-mate. They really liked her more than they ever cared for John.
To the point where McCain after his presidential defeat was able to switch back to stances on immigration more in line with his previous actions. A large part of why the Trump types looked for every chance they could find to demean the senator.
IT WAS JUST this spring that McCain went about saying that Republicans were on “the wrong side” of the immigration debate, and wrote in his memoir “The Restless Wave” that, “it’s something this country needs to do now, in this political moment, as old fears and animosities that have blighted our history appear to be on the rise again, exploited by opportunists who won’t trouble their careers or their consciences with scruples about honesty or compassion for their fellow man.”
It’s too bad that he didn’t stick to that stance when it could have counted. But it also means that we as a society have lost a voice desperately needed at a time when some of us want to think of Trump as credible for all the nativist nonsense he spews on a regular basis.
These are the thoughts that pop through my head upon learning of McCain’s passing, and while I’m not trying to diminish those who want to emphasize the Vietnam War vet and one-time Prisoner of War inmate, we should keep these in mind.
Because it could be said that if there’s a chance for our political system to ever achieve a sense of bipartisan cooperation on issues, we’re going to have to hope the one-time Party of Lincoln is capable of finding the next John McCain amongst its ranks to help lead us all out of the nonsense that Donald Trump has dragged all of us into.