The passing this past week of Senator John McCain, the self-styled maverick and former POW, truly marks the end of an era. Not just because of his incredible impact upon the American political scene, but also because he was one of the last national political figures who sought not just bipartisan solutions, but bipartisan friendships as well. And, given the current political temperature in the land, he will be the last Republican that Republicans don’t really like.
Last November, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll showed McCain was viewed favorably by 52% of Democrats while only 35% of Republicans felt that way. Somehow, 44% of Republicans held a negative view of their 2008 presidential nominee. Surely some of the Democratic support was due to McCain’s dramatic vote in support of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, as his favorability skyrocketed amongst Democrats after that to 71%. And in the days after his death a YouGov survey found that an astounding 3/4 of all Democrats had a favorable view of McCain whilst only 52% of Republicans agreed. Lastly, at a focus group I was at in May, Democrats also significantly liked McCain more than the Republican counterparts in the room.
On the face of it, this makes no cognitive sense. For, I would say with a nearly 100% degree of certainty that there isn’t any Democrat holding public office now who is more liked by Republicans than he/she is by Democrats. So, why was Senator McCain liked more by Dems, just 10 years after he won the Republican nomination for president? More particularly, why was he disliked more by members of his own party? The simple answer is that the Trumpization of the Republican party, which not coincidentally started with–or was hastened by–McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate has forced Republicans to drastically modify their ideology. By and large, and there isn’t any data to support this since admitting it would be counterproductive to their own delusioned sense of patriotism, Republicans care more about ideology than country. That’s almost inarguably the primary reason for McCain’s weak standing among Republicans.
Yet, there are other factors at play. In order to explain themselves and the world they inhabit, the typical conservative beeves the world is a zero-sum game viewed only in black and white. This adherence to zero-sum viewpoints leads to many conservatives playing the victim, since there must be winners and losers, and if they’re losing, the only possibility is some nefarious scheme to harm them. And since McCain occasionally sought bipartisan solutions, this made him a part of some liberal cabal that seeks to hurt white people in this country. Or so Trumpians believe.
After McCain’s decision to cease his cancer treatments, Kelli Ward, who was seeking the Arizona Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, implied that he was doing that to injure her chance in last week’s Republican Senate primary. Because that’s how most people reach their medical decisions. Then, about 40 hours after McCain’s death of brain cancer, Ward felt it necessary to lambaste those who criticize her with a familiar conservative trope about political correctness, which in itself is just an outgrowth of the sense of victimization they believe in. So her tweet was yet another fine example of the fact that basic human dignity as well as decency for others no longer exists within the Republican party:
So many (even casual) conversations with a Trumpian these days eventually exposes their irrational hypocrisy. (And yes, hypocrisy can be rational). It is not uncommon to hear your average conservative complain about money in politics. And they’ll throw their hands in the air as if there’s nothing that can be done. Yet, they champion the party that killed McCain-Feingold. Most people support the Affordable Care Act, but when it’s name becomes Obamacare, Republicans run for the hills. In the end, it might just be that conservatives hate better than liberals do. Not individually, not all-encompassing, but Republicans as a party of humans, might just hate better than liberals and Democrats do.
Surely there are Democrats who support ideology over party, the most vociferous Bernie Sanders supporters might fall into that camp. But, they too are wrong. To approach each issue from a purely ideological standpoint is absurd and ruinous to the population. And completely excludes far more important factors like justice and human morality. This is especially true if you live in an urban area like Cleveland where so many of the problems necessitate neither a liberal nor a conservative solution alone. Ideology and guiding principles can surely affect how we approach individuals and policies, but none of that makes disdain forJohn McCain acceptable. So hatred, the triumph of ideology over common sense and its subsequent irrationally can be the only ways to explain the phenomenon of this lifetime Republica dying as a hero to Democrats and disliked by at least 40% of his own party. How else can you explain the acceptability within the conservative community of the mocking of McCain for being a POW by a man who refused in any way the risk of becoming a POW himself?