This was a more somber Labor Day weekend than most. The death of Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, captured the attention of a nation that has clearly lost its way. A nation starving for any reason to come together and stop fighting each other so much and with such vitriol. Just about every political power broker, operative and junkie was dialed into the services held in Arizona, and then in Washington DC, with one obvious and clear exception. The feelings of the past weekend have inspired many to be better people — even in disagreement. There were eulogies given by two past Presidents — George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. A Republican and a Democrat. Joe Biden gave a heartfelt eulogy at the service in Arizona. The people Senator McCain selected to offer eulogies is telling about what he wanted his final message to Americans to be. Was anyone listening?
THE BASE IS ALL-IN
It has been said for a while now that in order to build any political traction and momentum on the national level, one must cater to the base of his/her party. In the case of Republicans, that has been true for quite some time. I felt the Republican base was "lost" to any common sense when they elevated Sarah Palin over John McCain during the 2008 campaign. McCain was trying to run a professional, responsible operation and was swimming up stream against a formidable and popular Democratic nominee in Barack Obama. It did not help McCain that the economy was beginning to come apart prior to the great crash that occurred in late summer of that year. When he tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate, and the campaign team had completely failed to properly vet her, the wheels of his campaign bus came undone.
Palin had no grasp of how the United States worked — on a day-to-day base level, or at a Constitutional level. She had no understanding of the issues nor could she formulate a knowledge-based discussion on those issues. She could hardly even "fake it." As a result, she went for Mr. Obama's race and family history as a way to stoke racism among a base of supporters within a Republican party that has increasingly accepted old "Dixiecrats" and egged on an us-against-them approach to the national discord.
John McCain was horrified by what he was seeing — within his party, and his own running mate. Had John McCain selected Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) or Former Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge or even former Senator Joe Lieberman — he may have been elected President in 2008. The "real" John McCain could not have been more clearly revealed when he had to sit one of his own supporters down at a rally to explain that despite believing in different solutions to America's woes, Barack Obama was a good man, and a good American. It was a great moment! I was proud of him and thankful when he did that — and not just because I was a strong Obama supporter!
Unfortunately the Base of the Republican Party was not hearing John McCain. After 2008 saw the election of Barack Obama, the base of the party did everything they could to call President Obama the N-Word without actually using it. The birther movement was steeped in racism — and it was headed in larger part by Donald Trump. This gave further fuel to the rise of the Alt-Right in the shape of the Tea Party wing of the Republican party. The same Republican base seemed to giggle along with Donald Trump when he called Senator McCain loser and not a hero. I fear that the Republican base is deaf to the words of respect and dignity of Senator McCain. I doubt they understood the words of those who spoke on his behalf so beautifully this weekend.
THE DEMOCRATS' ROLE IN A VICIOUS AMERICA
I find it ironic that so many Democrats and liberals are the ones hearing and feeling John McCain's words in this past week. This was the man Democrats were thrilled to defeat in 2008. Democrats have also been quick to jump into the political fray to fight back against Republicans — but time, and time again, Democrats show a much higher capacity to find a way to show respect, kindness and decency — even for a vanquished political opponent.
Throughout the Bush/Cheney era, I spent countless hours as a political operative fighting against their policies. To this day, I feel as though we are still fighting wars started by President Bush that we cannot get out from under. As much as I have long felt that he was a massive issue, he was a pro America/pro American People President — even if we disagreed on the policies. Even John McCain — who endured a blistering personal attack at the hands of George W. Bush, I believe would agree that "Bush 43" had the American interest at heart in his decisions, even if his decisions backfired or failed.
In the past few years, Democrats and Progressives have been far more vitriolic then at any time I have seen them in the past — yet they still seem to bend with more ease then Republicans. Democrats have been more willing to compromise — sometimes to the detriment of the nation — and Democrats have proven to be less likely to toe the party line the way Republicans have done. During the first Presidency of this century, Republicans were fairly lock step with the base, with the talking heads on radio and themselves. Instances of crossing the aisle were few and far between. Democrats — especially in the Senate were more likely to bend and compromise (some would almost say "cave") — particularly when it came to foreign policy.
A stark change began to emerge after President Obama's election. So-called moderates were voted out in primary after primary. The tribalism we see flourishing today began in earnest as the Alt-Right Tea Party gained a foothold within the Republican caucus. The response over the past 2 years has emerged now from the Democratic side. Established center-left Democrats are being replaced with more progressive leaning candidates. The middle is rapidly disintegrating. The response to the Trump era has been filled with a lot of fight from the left — something we have not seen before.
A SUSTAINABLE PEACE?
The tribalism that has gripped America for the better part of this century really emerged more violently in the past 3 years. As poorly as things were perceived to be during the Bush and Obama years, we could not imagine it could be worse — yet here we are. Senator McCain saw the nation he had given a lifetime in service, tear itself apart. The finger of blame could be pointed at both sides. A debate could ensue as to who started it — as if we were all back in the 5th grade.
The truth is it doesn't matter who started it. What matters is that we end it. That is what is right and just for this nation. That is what John McCain wanted. A return to normal order in the U.S. Senate. To a time when then Senator Joe Biden could sit in the Senate Chamber with Senator McCain, and listen to their colleagues, and discuss ideas of how to move forward — together.
I have long believed that the United States has been embroiled in a "Cold Civil War" that began during the Clinton years and has just gotten hotter and hotter. Perhaps at no other time has the the scorching blaze been hotter then when Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville, VA a year ago — with the pain of her death still terribly vibrant, a sitting US President disgustingly revealed to all the world exactly who and what he is — lifting members of the Klan, White Supremacists and Nazis with moral equivalence.
The beginning of the end of this Cold Civil War can come should the American People heed the advice of John McCain and return normalcy to the republic. It is ironic that in order to find that peace, enabling and cowardly Republicans have to be voted out of office. And should that happen, and Democrats are able to win control of either the US House or Senate — or both chambers — it will be imperative that they too hear what Senator McCain's lasting message was just before his passing. A return to normalcy.
This means returning the rules of the Senate to their normal state. Something a Senate Majority Leader Schumer must do as his first act. If Mr. Schumer is fortunate enough to become Majority Leader, and he chooses to peddle in the kind of petty, vindictive behavior of his predecessor Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, the war will continue, and the nation will continue to suffer. The same can be said of the House of Representatives. Should Democrats win control, the new Speaker — perhaps Nancy Pelosi, perhaps not — should bring proper and normal order to the House. That means eliminating the Hastert Rule and giving Members the ability to consider all legislation.
That is when a sustainable peace will come. That is the real message of John McCain. In a word — compromise.
Some say progressive, some say liberal others say just say Democrat. Many have other names for me, but we won't repeat them here. I am a long time political junkie and former operative from New York. The writings here are my thoughts and opinions on the days' events and the world we live in — and what it should be.