By Lillian Eells
Across the nation, people are mourning the death of a man who has been lauded as one of the last good politicians. Senator John McCain died on August 25 after a long battle with brain cancer. Since his tragic death, he has been remembered fondly as a noble hero who put country over party many times throughout his long career in Congress, but what set him apart from the average politician and what is his legacy?
McCain’s 30-plus year career was riddled with ups and downs. His relentless support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and his support of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 hurt millions of middle and lower class Americans. Both of these actions went against the popular opinion of Americans.
In addition to these disastrous policies, he was complicit in one of the most high profile political scandals in modern history, the Keating Five, when he was paid to pressure federal investigators to ignore the indiscretions of Lincoln Savings and Loan.
Even recently, he claimed to be the great Republican against Trump, yet he supported Trump’s policies 83 percent of the time. However, this less-than-impressive record was balanced by his fierce defense against weakening the Geneva Conventions during the Bush administration, passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, his unending support of veterans and, of course, his dramatic deciding vote to not repeal the Affordable Care Act.
This mixed bag of political accomplishments, however, has little to do with the legacy of McCain. Rather than his opinions, his approach to politics is much more noteworthy. In his eulogy for McCain, Joe Biden lamented the death of his longtime friend saying, “It wasn’t about politics with John. He could disagree on substance, but the underlying values that animated everything John did, everything he was, come to a different conclusion. He’d part company with you if you lacked the basic values of decency, respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself.”
Politicians often believe that admitting mistakes is a sign of being weak-willed, but McCain never shied away from recognizing his faults. He was open about his regrets and worked tirelessly to amend them. McCain was beloved by people across party lines for his courage, honor and morals.
In a time where party lines have been more sharply drawn, it is remarkable that former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both spoke at McCain’s funeral, and the poster child for partisan animosity, Donald Trump, was not invited.
John McCain’s final letter to the American people preaches what he has always believed: that unity, honor, and compassion must come before the political warfare. In order to honor McCain’s life and legacy, all Americans must work against partisan divides and the politicians who subscribe to hateful propaganda.