By Mason Carteri
Just a short while ago, on the 25th of August, America lost a great statesman and lifelong public servant – Senator John McCain. Senator McCain’s death is a tragedy, and a genuine loss to all of America. No matter what political disagreements this author or any American might have had with the late Senator, it would be a challenge to say that John McCain was not a decent man.
Even in his race for the highest office in the land, he famously refused to stoop to the level of personal degradation when dealing with his opponent. When a supporter questioned then-candidate Obama’s trustworthiness, McCain replied “No, ma’am. [Obama is] a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign’s all about.”
This stands in stark contrast to statements from President Trump, both in office and on the campaign trail, who regularly attacks and slanders his opposition – including Senator McCain – to this day. McCain was undeniably a more moral and family-oriented man and a more traditional husband and father, as well as a decorated war hero. Again, a stark contrast with the draft-dodging and comically adulterous past of President Trump.
Of course, Senator McCain was not perfect. He was notoriously weak on certain conservative issues, he admitted to eventually succumbing to Vietnamese torture and signing some worthless document decrying American actions in the war, his first marriage was formally ended just a short while before he married his second wife, and like many politicians, his early career was rocked by a financing scandal. In other words, he made mistakes and had shortcomings, like all people do at some point or another.
The difference between McCain and President Trump lies in the way each approached their moral failures. Senator McCain spoke publicly about his regrets and many of his failures and strove to be a moral man in public life, while President Trump wholeheartedly embraced his immoral qualities and lack of decency. Ironically, this likely landed him in the Presidency.
Although it is undoubtedly enjoyable to watch President Trump fight back against the mainstream media and the democratic establishment with the same vile tactics they have used against conservative political figures for decades, and it is undeniable that the President has won several major victories for right wing politics in this country (which may have been otherwise impossible with a more traditional candidate), we must accept that this approach is not healthy in the long term.
Our political leaders are usually held to a high moral standard, not just because they are meant to serve as a positive role model and inspiration to the younger generation, but also because they are often the most influential in setting the tone of national discourse. If a political leader is toxic or hostile, then their party will often follow suit, poisoning the entire national dialogue and furthering the divisions between Americans. It is this very poisoning of the national well that breeds public violence, extremism, and civil conflict, while a more positive national discourse promotes the opposite.
As leftist activism and politics continues to become more toxic, belligerent, and obscene, it is clear that only a dignified and honest push for moral conservative leaders can start to repair our national discourse.
Additionally, decency is critical for another, more Machiavellian reason: wanton toxicity scares away voters. Many elections, especially Presidential elections, are determined not by the core bases of either party, but by the middle-of-the-road moderate voters who can swing either way. While in 2016 President Trump was able to swing enough votes his way by connecting with people’s deepest grievances with the establishment and the PC culture, it is equally likely that the President’s continued toxicity, combined with a near-continuous barrage of negative coverage by the progressive media, will scare away voters in future elections.
Although the political left and their mouthpieces in Hollywood and the media will almost certainly continue to lob all manner of foul characterizations at conservative and libertarian policies and candidates, we must resist the urge to further stoop to their level. We must step up and return to the burden of building a better society.
President Trump has been a useful tool for conservatives, and for the time being, we’re stuck with him. In the next Presidential election cycle, it is incredibly unlikely that a primary contest for the Republican nomination would do anything but split the party and thus lose the election. Therefore, if we want to win in 2020, we have to stick with Trump through all eight years. However, when 2024 comes rolling around, the conservative movement and the republican party must attempt to return to a moral decency – for the sake of conservative governance, and for the sake of our country.
May we all take inspiration from the best of Senator McCain’s legacy, and may he rest in peace.