John McCain was a singular character whose passing has left a void unlikely to be filled. His maverick persona, while imperfect, and mental toughness bespoke of his character in defiance of forces arrayed against him, POW guards to Trump.
As with past moments-in-time, many will forever recall the place and time they heard the news. While not unexpected, it still stunned. A legend gone, and the world became an emptier place.
McCain’s story could have been a Greek tragedy. In my Higher Living Reflections blog, “The Warrior and the Quest for the Grail,” I write, “We in the audience, the ones who debate the play’s unfolding and conclusion, are left to judge, understanding that we will not likely be enshrined among those greater ones. We come to look to greatness, not as a perfection, but as a completeness rarely achieved. We’re left to be awed and wonder, to be inspired to rise above complaint, grousing, and self-pity, to strive for nobility in words and deeds.”
In contrast, the Republican Party tsar declared he prefers men “who weren’t captured.” Two years later, one remains stupefied by the cheers he received including from some that shared the battlefield with McCain while their preening Adonis refused his call, suffering a personal hell avoiding contracting an STD.
An old-school Republican to the end, McCain was, nevertheless, that rare individual who stood above the madding crowd even as he maddened. The last straw for Trump was his nay vote to obliterate Obamacare. His legendary five-and-a-half year stay at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war proved insufficient armor to the ensuing opprobrium.
McCain’s finest political moment occurred during the 2008 campaign when he took the microphone from a tea-bag lady and without hesitation defended Barack Obama as a good and decent man. In that instant, McCain’s nobility, courage, and sense of decency shone.
But McCain is gone and with his death so is the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Kemp. The Republican Revolution is a fait accompli. The GOP has joined the Soviet Union on the ash heap of history. It’s now the Party of Trump, imbued with Trumpian values.
But history shows that revolutions that overthrow the established social-moral order rarely survive. Napoleon arose from the chaos of the French Revolution. One hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia has reverted to czarism under Putin. Since Mao’s demise, China’s communism has evolved into fascist capitalism.
In his eulogy, former vice-president Joe Biden said, “All politics are personal.” His line reminded one of Tip O’Neill’s aphorism about all politics being local. Both were correct, but politics are becoming nationalized. It’s difficult to see a candidate running under a party label not in context of his/her party’s leader.
When Obama was president, Democrats ran under his banner. Now that shoe is on the Republican foot, and Republican candidates who don’t distance themselves are presumed to be with Trump.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton embracing Trump has down-ballot implications. With Stapleton as their standard bearer, the question for each Colorado Republican candidate is whether he/she too would welcome Trump’s endorsement. No answer means yes.
Democrats face different strains. Among them, generational conflict, ideological purity v. pragmatism, and personal loyalties triumphing party unity. They’re among the reasons it perennially gets the most congressional, senatorial, and presidential votes, yet finds itself in the minority.
In 1930, Will Rogers wise-cracked, “I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.” Times haven’t changed much.
That was evident nationally in 2016 with Bernie Bros refusing to support Hillary Clinton and grievance-white Democrats voting for Trump.
Here in 2012, the incumbent Democratic commissioner and the individual Randy Wheelock defeated in the primary, endorsed Republican Phil Buckland. Arguably, a fractured party contributed to Wheelock’s defeat. In 2016, Wheelock rebounded and won big. One major difference: party unity.
It is not likely Democrats will repeat the Republican folly. Democrats’ brains are wired differently. But that wiring can contribute to dissolution and ineffectiveness.
Republicans are noted for drinking the Kool-Aid. Democrats for shooting their foot. November will tell which is the more politically suicidal.
I can hear McCain sniggering.
Program Note: My interview with congressional candidate Joe Neguse will air on KYGT on Saturday, September 15th, at 1:00.