A house divided against itself cannot stand.
As the Presidential campaign winds down, John McCain’s true colors have finally begun to show. The man who carries the mantle of the party of Lincoln has shown that he cares less about the union of the country than he does about his own election. While McCain may be willing to lose an election to win a war, he seems perfectly fine with dividing a nation to support his ambitions.
Today he questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and his supporters have gone to extreme lengths to paint Obama not only as politically dangerous, but dangerous to all of American society. Joe the Plumber said publicly without a McCain campaign denial that a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel. Sarah Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” The word socialist has become the new “liberal.” It is becoming more and more apparent that McCain is no longer running for President of the United States of America, but rather, President of the United RED States of America.
The politics of division and separation have seldom risen to the level that we are now seeing. Michele Bachmann claims that the House of Representatives, the legislative body to which she belongs, should be investigated to see who is pro-America and who is anti-America. Numerous other Republicans talk about “real” vs “fake” America. Liberal sections of the country are “communist.” Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly vie for polar ends of the political spectrum and hold the most watched shows on cable television without even a hint of a lack of bias. (No offense Keith, I still love yah) We have become a nation divided.
When Lincoln uttered his famous words 150 years ago, he was talking about the single most horrific part of our shared history, the enslavement of one race by another. It was this speech that many say cost him the Senatorial election that year, because he was too bold in denouncing slavery. But Lincoln said what had to be said in spite of the political judgment of his peers.
What divides us today? 3%. It is Barack Obama’s statement that he would let the Bush tax cuts for the highest tax bracket revert to 39% vice the 36% that it is at now. This is our socialist threat. Nevermind that McCain himself opposed the cuts that brought us to these levels in the first place.
Now, the average American family doesn’t make anywhere near $250,000 per year, which is the bracket that Obama is referencing, so that alone cannot be the basis on which McCain and Palin have divided the nation. Instead, it is a conglomerate of evils, each more scary than the next. The abortion issue resonates well with the Dr. Dobson crew, but few others. Most studies show that a majority of Americans agree with abortion rights, at least in some circumstances and do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. McCain himself, while not agreeing with abortion, said in 2000 that he did not think that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
Other issues that have been raised include Obama’s relationships with William Ayers (forget G. Gordon Liddy), the Reverend Wright (forget Rev. Hagee), and Professor Khalidi (forget … hmm, Professor Khalidi?). The point being that for every scary person Obama shook hands with, McCain has at least one to counter with.
All in all, McCain’s campaign has continuously sought out the most divisive type of politics to further alienate one part of the population to curry favor with another. That we as Americans have allowed it to happen is shameful. I can remember the aftermath of 9/11 (Yes Guiliani, we liberals remember that terrible day too) in which we were, as Obama said, “Not red states, not blue states, but the United States of America.” The Bush administration’s response to 9/11, while heralded as bold and aggressive, proved to be poorly thought out, and a massive power grab in the form of the USA Patriot Act. Less than two years later, the attacks were spun into an excuse to invade Iraq, a decision that Americans will regret for years if not decades to come. A golden opportunity to reunite as a country slipped through our hands as the Republicans sought to be the American Party. The President declared to the world, and (it is now clear) to the American citizens, “You are either with us or you are against us.” And even now to question the government is seen as un-American.
The cynicism of the conservative movement is boundless it would seem. A professor in college once pointed out the difference between the 90s and the 60s, saying, “In the 60s we literally assassinated our leaders, today we assassinate their character.” This was in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal. No man has ever looked at a cigar the same.
Against this backdrop it takes true courage to stand up to the machine that is modern politics. The temptation to go negative has never been stronger. Thus, when McCain stood up and called out Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as agents of intolerance, it gave many people hope that perhaps a Republican could really put “Country First.” For a while there, McCain played the role of Maverick well, at least he made a good display of it.
However, the maverick spirit has been completely missing in this campaign. John McCain has become the political lap dog of the Rovian right. A once proud war veteran now uses that service to hide his otherwise abysmal record on supporting the military and its veterans. If McCain were a true maverick he would tell the troops and vets “Thank you for your service, but I don’t believe in handouts for anyone, not even you. Get back to work.”
A maverick who once famously apologized for opposing recognition of Martin Luther King Junior Day would have taken a public stance and said to those at his rallies “Anyone who says things like “Kill him! Off with his head! or “Terrorist” doesn’t truly get what my campaign is about, and I’d rather you didn’t vote for me than spew your hatred.”
A true maverick would have chosen the best qualified person for the job as vice president, regardless of gender or appeal to the base.
Over and over McCain has had the opportunity to be a true maverick and say things that might not win him the election, but might help win the war of division within this country. In fact, it might have actually swayed some of those independent and undecided voters into seeing him as someone who really does care about the issues. McCain could have taken a ton of wind out of Obama’s sails by being the maverick he claims to be and choosing to take the high road, perhaps to the chagrin of the Robertsons, Falwells and Roves of his party.
After 8 long years, McCain was finally in a position to take the Republican Party a different direction. Well, he’s certainly done that, by nominating Palin and showing the schism that exists between the two ideological bases of the party. The true Republican party, the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower is dead, having chose to put party over country time and time again. Through it all McCain has been a willing patsy each step of the way. But if McCain really wants to put country first in this election he has only one more opportunity. He should vote for Barack Obama on November 4.