December 6, 2023

soul of the GOP diedwith John McCain

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The soul of the GOP died with John McCain
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — Can mainstream Republicans recapture their party from a Trump-led cult? Their prospects look bleak. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, can’t do it. There’s not a big constituency for country club Republicans. Conservative commentator Bill Kristol can’t do it, not after four years of Never Trumpism. And John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, is not interested, not after the “crazies” took over. He sang “Zippity Do Dah” after stepping away from his leadership post in 2015.
          It seems a futile exercise to find an individual who could lead Republicans out from “the valley of the shadow of death,” (Psalm 23), a person who would “fear no evil.” Where oh where could such a person be? Yes, there once was such a man, and when he died the soul of the GOP died with him. He was not a god; he was not perfect. He was simply more perfect than any living Republican today. That man was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and his party should hope and pray that such a man or woman will soon appear to take up the baton he left behind.
          A man who served honorably and spent five years as a prisoner of war, he would have harsh words for the Trump acolytes who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And he wouldn’t mince words about Trump’s role inciting the insurrection that was timed for the day Congress would meet to ratify the 2020 presidential election.
          Having pushed for months “the big lie” that he had won the election, and filing dozens of baseless lawsuits, Trump rallied the crowd outside the White House to march on the Capitol, and he did nothing to send help as cable news reported the building had been breached.
          McCain would have called out the mob as demagogic and evil, and he would have lamented the white supremacists who assaulted the Capitol police trying to defend a building at the epicenter of democracy.
          If McCain were on the scene, there is no way his best buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would dare to defend Trump. McCain would demand Congress hold Trump accountable as an instigator of the January 6th violence and of the dark forces he unleashed in the months and years before the insurrection.
          It is said on Capitol Hill that when they buried McCain, they buried Lindsey Graham’s spine with him. Graham is still defending Trump. He sold his soul for a handful of golf games and the thrill of being around someone supposedly rich and self-aggrandizing.
          If McCain were around to denounce Trump, would it make any difference? If anyone could make a difference, it would have been McCain. He’s a war hero, and in going toe to toe with draft-dodger Trump, the loyalty of the military would never have been in doubt. As a former presidential nominee, he has a following in his own right that if he had lived could have been mobilized effectively.
          His constituency is unlike Trump’s Republicans who were swayed by the siren call of bigotry to maintain their power. If McCain’s voice had been heard during last year’s election, he could have produced a landslide for Biden by exposing Trump and his cult following for the danger they posed to the nation and the Republican Party. They were friends. Biden spoke at his funeral. Trump didn’t.
          McCain would have had the courage to say yes to a Big Tent that included diverse views, and no to an all-inclusive tent that included white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers.
          Because he was never viewed as an insider, McCain’s maverick status gave him more reach within and beyond the Republican Party. And if the Republican Party in Arizona denounced him, as they did his wife, Cindy McCain, for endorsing Biden, he would have worn it as a badge of honor.
          McCain had his faults and picking Sarah Palin as his vice president was among them. But in a party that lost its soul along with the 2020 election, he reminds us that change is still possible if one person has the courage to stand up and denounce a dangerous demagogue.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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