SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

McCain's complex legacy offers GOP soul-searching opportunity

Last week, an extremely important figure in American political history, Arizona Sen. John McCain, ...

Posted: Aug 31, 2018 3:34 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2018 3:34 PM

Last week, an extremely important figure in American political history, Arizona Sen. John McCain, passed away at 81. He left behind a robust and impressive career in public service. Following his tour of duty in Vietnam and his long captivity as a POW, McCain devoted his life to one institution -- Congress.

McCain worked as a representative of his state at a time when many people of his stature chose to make money in the private sector. And, since the days of President Ronald Reagan, he was a loyal soldier to the conservative movement.

Conservatism

Government and public administration

John McCain

Political Figures - US

Political organizations

Politics

Sarah Palin

Society

Tea Party movement

US political parties

US Republican Party

At the same time, there were moments when he acted as a genuine maverick on several high profile issues, including his championing of campaign finance reform in the early 2000s and his recent vote against the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. McCain also served as part of the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight," that sought a compromise on immigration reform during President George W. Bush's administration.

But, like many leaders with lengthy political careers, his legacy is complicated.

While he will be remembered as one of the few Republicans who was vocal in his opposition to President Donald Trump and his gruff style of politics, McCain also played a critical role in opening the door to the transformation that has remade the Republican Party and allowed for the rise of Trump. As the Republican nominee in the presidential election of 2008, McCain helped to cement the marriage between the voters who would soon be called Tea Party Republicans and the GOP Party leadership.

After winning the nomination, McCain made a bold choice in an effort to energize his campaign, selecting the relatively unknown Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Although for a brief spell the McCain-Palin ticket generated the excitement that McCain hoped for, the campaign quickly disintegrated.

As the nation faced a massive economic meltdown, Palin proved to be a lightweight. She couldn't handle basic policy questions from the news media. Just as important, the crowds at their rallies turned ugly. It was clear to McCain that Palin was attracting parts of the Republican coalition who had not been as prominent in presidential politics before. They were nastier in their attacks against Democrats, and they were willing to go to places that the party's mainstream considered to be off limits. When McCain mentioned Barack Obama in his campaign speeches in October 2008, some in the crowd would shout out "treason" and "terrorist." At one rally in Florida, the crowd hurled insults at the "liberal media" with one man telling an African-American journalist to "Sit down, boy." At a few McCain-Palin events, supporters even screamed out, "off with his head."

McCain did not like what he was seeing. A climactic moment in the campaign occurred during one town hall meeting, when he passed the microphone to a supporter who said, " ... I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not ... he's an Arab. He's not ... " McCain took the microphone back from her and said "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about."

But each time that he tried to "cool the crowd," Jonathan Martin and Amie Parnes reported in Politico, "he was rewarded with a round of boos."

To his credit, McCain did take a stand at that town hall, and he would later make tough statements about Tea Party Republicans on Capitol Hill, calling them "Tea Party Hobbits" when they moved to shut down the government over a spending dispute in 2011.

And McCain has not been shy about what he thinks of our current President. "To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century," McCain warned, "to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of Earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."

Nonetheless, his selection of Palin in 2008 was consequential to his party. When historians look back at how he impacted politics, the positive contributions that he made to Washington and to his party will be balanced by the forces he helped open the doors to at the highest levels of power. Not surprisingly, McCain, who was never someone interested in nostalgia, struggled with his decision for the rest of his career. Just this year, he admitted that he regretted ignoring his gut, which wanted to pick Joseph Lieberman, a former Democrat turned Independent, instead.

Sometimes, the mistakes of a politician are as important as his accomplishments. At a moment when the Republican Party is struggling to understand what it has become, McCain's complex career offers an opportunity for some important soul-searching.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
LaPorte9065163
Howard8236144
Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
Shelby417581
Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
DeKalb347164
Montgomery345754
Knox335639
Miami321444
Steuben313745
Whitley307326
Wabash303251
Adams300936
Ripley298445
Putnam296850
Huntington291659
Jasper289034
White273243
Daviess270474
Jefferson263338
Decatur247683
Fayette247148
Greene239862
Posey239328
Wells236051
LaGrange228862
Scott225339
Clay222532
Randolph213548
Jennings198936
Sullivan192333
Spencer191321
Washington186423
Fountain184027
Starke175443
Jay167623
Owen165737
Fulton164030
Orange159534
Carroll158015
Rush155118
Perry154229
Vermillion149134
Franklin148333
Tipton132332
Parke13078
Pike116926
Blackford111022
Pulaski97037
Newton90921
Brown88035
Benton86610
Crawford7999
Martin73713
Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 22°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 19°
Huntington
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 29°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 26°
Lima
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 23°
Dry start to Monday, snow/freezing rain moves in late
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events