Saturday, March 10, 2007

McCain: Frightening Authoritarian?

Reason magazine (via Matthew Yglesias) has an offputting article on the "frightening authoritarianism" of John McCain. Author Matt Walsh has a hard time deciding what makes McCain more of an authoritarian--the history of McCain's family in the Navy, the politics of patriotism that McCain developed during the 1970's, or McCain's role in pushing campaign finance reform. Walsh's efforts to smear McCain with the military history of his family were especially bothersome to me because my own heritage is a lot less noble than McCain's. It's bad enough that my grandfather on my mother's side left my mom's family during the Depression but it appears that both of my grandparents on my father's side were relentless philanderers who either abandoned (my grandmother) or practically abandoned (my grandfather) their four kids. And my abusive, misogynous, racist father isn't exactly a credit to humanity either.

To the contrary, it seems to me that John McCain has grown as much from the failures of his life as anybody could be expected to grow. In his autobiographical books, McCain took his failures as a POW (he ultimately cracked and signed a confession) and his involvement in the Keating Five as opportunities to become a better person and devote himself more fully to the good of the country. Good for McCain. In my own way, I've attempted to employ my experiences with my deeply flawed father to become a better father, better professor, and better human being. All of our families have skeletons and we all have failures in our lives. But it is possible to learn from these things and John McCain has done as well as a person could be expected.

I was never going to vote for John McCain and I'm disappointed with the non-stop pandering of his presidential campaign. At the end of the day, however, John McCain is not a frightening authoritarian in any way. In fact, he deserves a lot of credit for the way he's lived his life.


an anonymous student who doesn't want this to bear any relevance to their grade said...

Yeah, I'll concede, it's a little refreshing to see some respect between political opponents on a personal level. People too often blur the line between profession and personality, and are quick to judge a person based on one's job, be it on the Hill or in the mines, be it as a stripper or a musician. People are quick to discredit entertainers as being uninformed on the issues, quick to reduce dancers to simpletons and objects, quick to reduce a hard laborer to an uneducated brute, quick to reduce a politician to the stereotypes about his or her ideological polarity.

And yeah, coming up from personal tragedy and unabashed racism steeped in more generations than I can trace, I can relate. Just as quick as beltway fundamentalists pledge unending support for Ted Haggard and his views until they dug up his skeletons, or (as I see more and more often) falling in love with a candidate for president in '08 based on one razor-thin ideal of their platform, and disregarding their voting record and any criticism. I speak here mostly of Ron Paul, since he's always pledged to defend the Constitution above all else, and Bush-jaded Americans of all ages are quick to run to an anti-Patriot Act congressman with a bag full of promises.

But my point is not just that Ron Paul's personal beliefs leak through his idealism and his hardline beliefs mean cutting support to FEMA, breast cancer research, or even just giving official honors to Charles Schulz.

My point is that way too often, voters are either swept off their feet by the persona of a candidate and not their stance on the issues, and way too often critical authors are way too quick to judge an individual on a level that may extend into personal insult based solely on political standing (yourself included, Caric).

But I grew up in a house where Jesus was Lord, I was taught to hate "the damn bleeding-heart liberals" before I knew what the words meant, and I took solace and comfort in the charms of home and tradition. The more I learn about the world, the more distant I get from that--a pattern I notice I'm not alone in.

Ric Caric said...

One of the risks of talking and writing all the time is that people say things they wouldn't otherwise say. In my political commentary, I avoid a lot of the personal cheapshots that are both wrong and counter-productive. For example, I've always thought that the "Bush is stupid" accusations were very wrong-headed. But I imagine that there are times when I fall into the cheapshot cliches as well.

Concerning class: one of the things that I've noticed, and been somewhat disappointed by, is the lack of conservative views. If you have conservative views (your reply seems ambivalent), you should express them in class.