John McCain, Loyal GOP Soldier

The widely revered senator's record is less "maverick," and more "party loyalist."

When John McCain announced that he had brain cancer, for the most part people rallied to his side. Twitter and opinion pages were filled with tales of McCain’s life as a POW, his war heroics and his reputation as a maverick in congress. I will never understand these tweets and op-eds. They seem more fitting for memorial services than describing a man who has a chance to fight his illness.

I will also admit I’ve never been a John McCain fan. I’m not as bad as President Trump who likes soldiers who weren’t captured. But the “maverick” tag that has followed McCain for decades is a lie. McCain’s record is one of party line votes but he gets the label by following a simple formula:

{Frequent guest on Sunday talk shows} * ({Bluster about conflicts with GOP policies} + {Voice concerns about the way the bill was written}) / {Vote with the party anyway} = Maverick label

Even McCain’s most acclaimed maverickery line during the 2008 election when he stopped a woman at a campaign rally from calling Obama an Arab was problematic if you delve a little deeper.

McCain did take the mic away from the woman when she started in with her ignorant comment but then McCain made his own offensive comment saying Obama wasn’t an ‘Arab’ he was a decent, family man as if Arab men aren’t decent, family men. And while you can credit McCain for standing up for Obama at this rally, you should blame McCain for the tone of the 2008 campaign in the first place. McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate then used her as his attack dog. She repeatedly used thinly-veiled (and some not so thin) comments like Obama was paling around with terrorists and a member of the Muslim brotherhood. McCain could then distance himself from Palin’s comments while benefiting from the racism and bigotry that has always been a part of the GOP strategy.

McCain himself was a victim of that “racism first” approach during the 2000 primary while running against George Bush, the lesser, when the Bush camp started spreading the rumors that he had an illegitimate black child when it was his adopted daughter from Bangladesh. None of that stopped the maverick from using similar tactics during the 2008 election putting lipstick on the pit bull, Palin, and sending her out to rile up the racist base.

Most recently, McCain was called courageous and inspiring as he left his top of the line hospital bed, in one of the best hospitals in the country, postponing treatment by some of the top specialists, to vote to take away minimum health care for over 30 million Americans. He and the rest of the GOP weren’t sure of the effects of this bill since few had seen it, fewer worked to craft the bill, and the president wasn’t ― and still isn’t, for that matter ― even sure what’s in it. But John McCain, the maverick, vote for it anyway like he has before. Even after decades in congress, McCain will use what strength he has left to vote for a bill that will certainly harm millions of Americans.

So we can stop pretending McCain is someone to admire. He’s a GOP politician to his core, and that’s nothing to be proud of.