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The Legacy of John McCain as Soldier and Senator

Robert Dimuro

Posted on August 26, 2018 09:28

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How a Vietnam veteran turned politician will be remembered as Americans grow more and more weary of the establishment elite

The death of Senator John McCain reverberates across the entirety of Congress as he was well respected by both Republicans and Democrats. McCain was one of the most successful politicians of our time, serving in the Senate since 1986. Although he never won the hearts and minds of the hardline Conservatives, McCain was always a key member of the Republican elite and never had a problem securing reelection.

McCain's position of influence on the Republican Party was never challenged until the rise of Donald Trump, who not only sought to take the party in a new direction but also personally attacked McCain - calling into question his status of being a war hero. In the final years of his life, the Trump phenomenon has left its mark on McCain's legacy in a way that his time serving in Vietnam and being a POW cannot rival.

It wasn't Trump's remark itself that made the impact - it was the fact that his poll numbers seemed to continue to increase, even after disparaging a former prisoner of war. Clearly, there were a significant number of people growing weary of McCain’s long-standing tenure in the Senate, which was made possible by his having been a POW.

This is not to say that McCain wasn’t a war hero (in any reasonable sense that an individual in military service would be considered one). McCain wasn’t simply captured, he was tortured for over five years during interrogations and refused to comply. He even refused to return to the United States until his fellow captives were also released. Not very many people in his position would be able to do what McCain did in defense of his country.

Although it's unreasonable to seriously contend that McCain wasn't hero for his bravery in Vietnam, it's also unreasonable to expect the people to maintain a positive view of him based on this heroism alone. His voting record is nothing radical for a mainstream Republican, as McCain was a part of the Republican Establishment. However, his position as a Republican elite who favored the status quo will be remembered more vividly than his voting record. Arguably, this is true for any sitting member of Congress who isn't an outsider such as Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders.

The prevailing view of politicians in Congress is that they are unprincipled and corrupt. Undoubtedly, McCain was perceived as one of the poster boys for this type of politician. Upon deciding not to run for reelection when diagnosed with cancer, McCain said that he can "vote his conscience without worry," reaffirming the narrative that he didn't always vote in the interests of his constituency.

Moreover, as a vocal opponent of Donald Trump as a candidate and then as president, McCain voted against the final effort to repeal Obamacare, a bill that Trump desperately wanted to pass. In the end, McCain's opposition to Trump and alliance with the establishment will be remembered more than his senatorial accomplishments or his heroism as a POW. 

 

 

Robert Dimuro

Posted on August 26, 2018 09:28

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