Republican or Democrat?

This last week or so has been a truly bizarre time in the United States. Senator John McCain passed away, and there was a great outcry from people who knew him, on both sides of the political spectrum, about how great a loss that was. Republicans and Democrats alike spoke of his personal character, expressing respect and affection despite their differences.

That's normal enough, though I doubt there are many politicians who could hope to get such praise. What's bizarre is how the rest of society reacted. McCain was a frequent critic of President Trump despite (ostensibly) being from the same party. There was a huge feud between the two, and as a result, a lot of the people in the Republican party came to hold a negative view of McCain.

This created a strange situation where it seemed liberals held a higher viewer of McCain than Republicans. Time and time again, I would turn on a "liberal" television station like MSNBC and see more positive coverage for McCain than I would if I turned on the "conservative" station Fox News. This pattern held in my personal experiences on social media and in real life. Even as Republican politicians, aides and other "establishment" members praised McCain, Fox News and Republican voters spoke much less favorably of him.

The situation was even stranger when examined further. Many of the Republicans who did speak out to praise McCain after his passing refused to speak like that while he was still alive. Very few of them spoke in McCain's defense during his feud with Trump. Presumably, they figured siding against Trump would cost them their next election so they kept silent.

I don't have a good way to wrap this up. The situation is bizarre but not really surprising. The Republican party is being held hostage by a large segment of its base. That's "normal" in the sense it's perfectly predictable. But it's also bizarre in that this week, if you were a Republican from 10 years ago, you'd give all appearances of being a Democrat.

That's weird, right?

6 comments

  1. Not strange at all that McCain garners more praise from Liberals than Republicans (a label by which I assume you mean Conservatives, the actual opposite of Liberals). McCain gave more aid to his opposition party than normally would be expected so they loved him for it. It serves their cause to lionize a "maverick" who undercuts his allies in the name of a bipartisanship that surrenders bargaining power and gets less than it gives. For a long time we will hear "Why can't you be more like John McCain?" in challenge to those who legitimately oppose the damages the Progressive agenda would impose. McCain certainly was courageous in Viet Nam and he may have been genuinely friendlier than most in Washington, but he was not particularly loyal to his Party so why should everyone pretend that he was? It's refreshingly honest to see no false fawning coming from those who disagreed with him. They are right to praise the good elements of his character, but also right to judge his choices from the perspective of what is best for the country.

  2. Gary:

    McCain certainly was courageous in Viet Nam and he may have been genuinely friendlier than most in Washington, but he was not particularly loyal to his Party so why should everyone pretend that he was? It's refreshingly honest to see no false fawning coming from those who disagreed with him. They are right to praise the good elements of his character, but also right to judge his choices from the perspective of what is best for the country.

    The phrase "loyal to his Party" is a troubling one to hear. The idea voting by his conscience as opposed to betraying his beliefs in order to toe the party line is wrong is one many people have promoted. But it's terrible. Supporting the idea how much a person should be praised after their death depends on how "loyal" they were to a party is effectively saying loyalty to one's party is all that matters. Even when the party line greatly diverges from its own stated principles.

    Incidentally, you show the problem perfectly when you then suggest his party is "right to judge his choices from the perspective of what is best for the country." The judgment against McCain has practically nothing to do with what is best for the country. Republicans weren't pressured to refrain from praising McCain until he feuded with Trump. The pressure has nothing to do with any analysis of his actions or policies. It's purely loyalty to party, or more specifically, Trump. And that sort of behavior is never good for a country. If one feels McCain should be judged by what is best for the country, his willingness to stand up to Trump was better for the country than kowtowing ever could have been.

    Which I'm sure many people will disagree with as it seems a significant portion of the country believes supporting Trump no matter what is what's best for the country. Which is idiotic, but hey, people's views on politics often are.

  3. Brandon,

    You join a Party because you mostly agree with its positions. If you disagree substantially you should leave the Party. If you have a conscience it should inform you that being a member of a group with which you substantially disagree is a violation of that conscience. You're a member for some other reason than advancing a commonly held cause which ostensibly you agree with. It could be that you are trying to persuade your group to change its position, or it could be you just want to take advantage of the group's beneficial umbrella to your own advantage. Again, your conscience should tell you how honest you are about that. That's what I mean by "loyalty." It's not just toeing the line regardless of where the line goes. Perhaps the word carries a meaning for you that I don't intend?

    I make no excuse for the feckless behavior of any and all politicians regardless of Party. They should be upfront with criticisms and not just when it's expedient to do so. But they're not. As for what's "best for the country" it always depends on your point of view, of course.

  4. Gary:

    You join a Party because you mostly agree with its positions. If you disagree substantially you should leave the Party. If you have a conscience it should inform you that being a member of a group with which you substantially disagree is a violation of that conscience. You're a member for some other reason than advancing a commonly held cause which ostensibly you agree with. It could be that you are trying to persuade your group to change its position,

    John McCain's disagreements with Trump almost universally consisted of McCain holding to conservative ideals while Trump discarded them. The Republican party allowing itself to be corrupted into endorsing numerous positions which run contrary to its stated ideals does not mean McCain deserves rejection when he chooses not to go along with it.

    Again, your conscience should tell you how honest you are about that. That's what I mean by "loyalty." It's not just toeing the line regardless of where the line goes. Perhaps the word carries a meaning for you that I don't intend?

    If you want to use "loyalty" in a way that's not going to have a terrible connotation, the only sensible conclusion is McCain has been far more loyal to his party and its ideals than Trump or the Republicans kowtowing to Trump. The only "loyalty" McCain didn't show is the sort of mindless sycophancy and total lack of integrity that goes along with what most people refer to when they talk about being "loyal" to Trump and his party.

    As for what's "best for the country" it always depends on your point of view, of course.

    There is no argument that McCain's vote against the "skinny repeal" of Obamacare was good for the country. It was good for the Republican party. It was good and right by any and every measure. Had McCain toed the party line on that vote, the country would be in a much worse position with millions of people suffering, and the Republican party would be stuck with the blame so their chances in the midterms would have been much worse.

    So no, it does not always depend on your point of view. There are a lot of objective measure of what is good and bad. As another example, McCain speaking out against Trump's pardon of Arpaio was a good thing. There's a world where Arpio wouldn't have become a minor candidate in the 2018 midterms but actually an important one. People like McCain speaking out is part of why that didn't happen (notice how Trump didn't say a word about Arpaio's campaign). Again, good for the country, good for the Republican party. If Arpaio's campaign would have not completely fizzled out, there's no telling what the effects could have been.

    (To be fair, Arpaio probably didn't plan on winning the nomination and was just wanting to embezzle money from his campaign. But hey, I'm sure some people will argue that pardoning this guy and having him run for the Senate is good for the country under some point of view. Relativism and whatnot.)

  5. You seem to think that Trump and the Republican Party are the same thing. The evidence is that Trump is a narcissistic, oafish, loudmouth creep. He won the Presidency by a combination of weird circumstances and espousing ideas that align with the traditional Republican base. His support would evaporate if he abandoned those ideas or even failed to implement them. He's an opportunist not wedded to an ideology. Pre-Trump McCain aligned less with those positions, hence his identification as a Party maverick. That he should be criticized for that either pre- or post-mortem is not wrong.

  6. Gary:

    You seem to think that Trump and the Republican Party are the same thing.

    I do not. I simply note the Republican base has decided to embrace Trump with enough fervor politicians have become hostages, unable to speak out against or oppose Trump in many meaningful ways.

    His support would evaporate if he abandoned those ideas or even failed to implement them.

    Given how many promises Trump made to his base then broke, I don't think your claim here is accurate. There are some things Trump could do which would likely cause the support for him to vanish, but the reality is Trump has failed to implement almost any of the things he said he'd implement. About the only thing Trump has done is get judges appointed to benches at all levels. Seriously, aside from that, what can people point to that Trump promised to do and actually did?

    Border wall? No progress has been made even though he lies and says the wall is being built. Foreign trade deals? Hasn't gotten a single one through, even though he likes to pretend he has. I guess you could say he reached a deal with China, but that was only after he started a trade war for no reason, caused the United States to lose the war then ran away from it. Repeal and replace Obamacare? As if. The one attempt he made at it was a disaster prevented because McCain opposed the effort. Deficit ucts? As if, Trump is increasing those. Clearing out corruption? Yeah right, Trump's administration has been the most corrupt we've seen in ages. Tax cuts? Get real. Sure, Trump got tax cuts passed, but the cuts weren't what he promised they'd be, almost only helping the "wrong" people. Seriously, what policies are you claiming Trump has implemented that keep his base's support?

    Pre-Trump McCain aligned less with those positions, hence his identification as a Party maverick. That he should be criticized for that either pre- or post-mortem is not wrong.

    Nonsense. McCain has always embraced the Republican party's ideals more than Trump ever will. There are some issues on which McCain leaned more liberal, but there is no comparison between him and Trump. McCain was a Republican. Trump isn't.

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