John McCain’s Old Habit

At the best of times, John McCain is a good man — even a great one. But the sad truth is that much of the moral fiber that makes him great, and distinguishes him from the vast swath of his party, seems to come and go with the political cycle. An example.

After winning the nomination in 2008, McCain took a bold step, and eliminated the phrase “Democrat Party” from his party’s platform. By way of background, this shortening of the Democratic Party’s name, designed to emphasize the harsh “rat” sound and otherwise convey disrespect, has a long history in the Republican’s vocabulary of derision. Regular use dates at least to Joe McCarthy, but it was the 1996 Republican Party, and George W. Bush, who re-injected the term into modern discourse. Restoring to his Democratic opponents the respect of using their own name, then, was an extraordinary, if subtle, act of political courage, and a sign of the true class of which John McCain is capable.

You can probably see where this is going. From an e-mail to supporters:

My Friend,
The 2010 election offers all Americans – and especially Republicans – a critical choice. We can fight for the principles we believe in, or watch as Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress take our nation down a costly, destructive path.

McCain’s use of the term is half-hearted — he recants of it later (“Inconceivably the Obama White House and Democratic Congressional leaders…“) — but it’s a sure sign of how tough things must be in Arizona. The last time we saw McCain slip into hyper-negative mode was February of ’08, as the general election campaign kicked off and McCan began to face (scurrilous) allegations of impropriety with campaign staff. Palin would later carry this torch for McCain.

Democrat Party. Socialism. “Liberal fascism.” Death panels. ObamaCare. ObamaCrats. “Hopey changey.” This rhetoric, par for the course from senior almost GOP policymakers, amounts to a slur on the political process, and proof that the GOP continues to win by pandering to the lowest common denominator. McCain used to be better than that, intermittently, sometimes.


  1. A,

    I personally wouldn’t read too much into that instance of the word – he’s using a hyphenated adjective in place of “controlled by Democrats,” so I think it’s a far cry from, say, “Democrat Congress,” in which case I’d agree with you 100%. On the other hand, his reversal on heeding the words of military leaders regarding DADT is a glaring disappointment.

    It reminds me of one of my favorite comments ever on Pharyngula, by one “Longtime Lurker,” in response to McCain’s attempts to court the support of John Hagee. Gentle expurgation by me.

    A few years back, I went to a pro-immigration rally in the Bronx sponsored by the “Legalize the Irish” group, but attended by immigrants of all sorts, and their supporters. The John McCain of the “McCain-Kennedy Immigration Bill” was the featured speaker. You know, the old McCain that opposed Falwell as an “agent of intolerance”. Well, here he was in the auditorium of St. Barnabas Roman Catholic School (Hagee would have plotzed to see all the popery), speaking out in favor of a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, and we all responded by singing “Fields of Athenry” for him. “Fields of F—ing Athenry” -a turnip would have wept, had it ears to hear. Now he pulls this anti-immigrant, pro-domininionist crap! If I were a believing man, I’d curse the blackguard!

  2. Yeah, call him out on, I dunno… stuff, but you’re splitting a hair pretty fine to decide he’s using “Democrat” the way you’ve inferred it.

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