John McCain’s Republican Party is over, perhaps before it even got started. That’s the argument Daniel McCarthy makes at Spectator/USA. It is worth considering.
McCain has always enjoyed being called a “maverick”—a moniker used by friend and foe alike in describing him. It’s universal usage was less an indication of any shared understanding of the man, however, than it was the result of carefully crafted branding. That one could scarcely tell whether a person used “maverick” as an epithet or as a compliment at any given moment, not even when the political leanings of said person were evident, speaks to the utter meaningless of the term as it was applied to McCain. McCain has been a “maverick” in the same way that people who buy Apple products “think different.” That is to say he isn’t and they don’t; at least not for their participation in this absurd branding exercise.
Yet McCain, in spite of his fairly unoriginal path to advancement (is there a quicker way for a Republican to get the attention of the media than to denounce his own party?), did manage to stumble into a formula that for one brief shining moment looked like it might work for him and for the GOP in 2008. That moment was when he picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate—and before she became an object of ridicule. That she became an object of ridicule was partly her fault. But voters saw how McCain responded first to the praise she received (he appeared to resent it) and then to the merciless attack on Palin. That attack happened because she was effective at the convention and it put the fear of God into the Democrats. That McCain would not try to get in sync with her on message and would not defend her, manfully, when she was attacked hurt him. People saw then what kind of a guy he is. And now, shamefully, he is using his final days to remind us.
It must gnaw at McCain’s deepest longings to see how Trump used exactly the strategy that many people then urged him to adopt to build support among working class voters in the Midwest. Trump proved actually to be a maverick, not just to play one on TV.
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