Today We Mourn a Stooge
Criticizing the Republican Party is always a tricky proposition. With the election of Donald Trump in particular, it’s practically impossible; calling out a moronic huckster who won the election by making jerk-off gestures at the very notion of being a respectable politician is like arguing against a fart. Part of the reason hashtag-the-resistance is having such a problem with crafting their message is that everyone knows that Trump is a complete fraud, and nobody cares. The right is entirely willing to ride this death-train to the end as long as they get to drive, and the left has bigger things to think about than what degree of a turd the enemy is choosing to polish at the moment.
Sometimes, though, the swamp monster depositing its slime and muck all over the surface of human decency extrudes a coil of filth so acidic and gross that you have to take a moment and look at it in something like awe before you reach for the handle and flush. Such a specimen is John McCain, the right-wing billionaire imperialist stooge who has somehow managed to fool the electorate into thinking that he’s some sort of free-thinking paragon of rectitude and not the basest phony to ever drag himself across the floor of the Senate building.
The degree to which you loathed John McCain prior to this week depended entirely on your familiarity with him. If you barely followed politics at all — that is to say, if you were a Republican — you might think him an admirable figure, a war hero and a stalwart of good governance who stood tall as our politics was ever more debased by petty partisanship. If you followed politics, but didn’t really understand it — that is to say, if you were a Democrat — you likely knew enough to dislike his personal politics, but still insisted that he was a decent man and perhaps even, as the horseshit metaphor would have it, a “maverick” who was willing to cross party lines and maybe, just maybe, would be the salvation of the Great Republic.
But if you knew John McCain well, you knew better. Especially if you had the bad fortune to live in Arizona, the state where he rose to political prominence as the protégé of warmongering dingbat Barry Goldwater, you knew him for exactly what he has been for the last forty years: a lying, debased, ignorant fraud, a man so lacking in principles that he consistently voted for some of the worst legislation to come across his desk and yet so cowardly that he would lick the boots of people who despised him if it meant preserving his almost completely meaningless position of power in the Senate. McCain possesses every quality that people hate in politicians: he’s spineless, hypocritical, self-serving, and two-faced, and yet he’s build a considerable political reputation as being the exact opposite. McCain never sniffed a ring he wouldn’t kiss or got served a bowl of shit he wouldn’t eat, and yet people with only a passing familiarity with the man and his career could be easily convinced that he was some kind of American icon whose passing would be a great loss for the country instead of the correction of a decades-long mistake.
That got harder to do today. McCain’s brain, abused for a half-century by his insistence on pretending he was anything more than a lapdog to his betters in the halls of power, finally decided to fight back by inflicting itself with cancer; this might have inspired pity amongst the laity if it weren’t for what happened next. Securing the permission of a physician paid for by the American taxpayer, McCain returned to Washington from his giant mansion in the Valley of the Sun, interrupting the excellent treatment we paid for, to cast a resounding vote in favor of stripping those very Americans of the shitty health care that is all they have to stay alive. (Just in case there were some dupes who didn’t get the point — and there is no shortage of dupes, especially amongst the American pundit class — he voted again, several hours later, to kill the ACA without any sort of alternative plan, which he had loudly vowed not to do. Thus did he preserve his reputation as a rebellious independent while doing what he as always done: voting 100% with the worst elements of the Republican Party.)
The reaction was as predictable as it was depressing. Democrats paused briefly to give him a standing ovation for the brave act of leaving his deathbed to condemn millions of their constituents to deathbeds of their own, and then returned to back-patting celebrations of the comeuppance they mistakenly believe the G.O.P. is going to receive for its actions. When a cheery number of people from various points left of center expressed the correct opinion that McCain is a complete heap offal who can’t die soon enough, they and their allies in the Respectability Police kicked their tut-tut machine into overdrive, suggesting that there is something morally reprehensible about trash-talking a man whose actions will cause pain and death to the people you love. McCain, it was said by people who understand the notion of class solidarity perfectly well, may be a man you disagree with, but that does not give you the right to wish him ill. The fact that he not only wishes us ill, but wields sufficient power to ensure that ill is actually visited upon us, doesn’t appear to enter into the equation.
In the end — and let us hope on a twinkling star that this is very close to the end for him — John McCain will leave us doing the same thing he’s done since the 1980s: advancing the most inhuman and disgraceful policies imaginable on behalf of a Republican party leadership that absolutely loathes him, while maintaining a baffling pretense that he is a man of honor who wants nothing more than to restore prestige and reverence to himself, if not the country. He’ll be kept alive for a while by the good graces of exactly the kind of health care program he insists on denying to the rest of us, but eventually he’ll die. We’re supposed to wish him the best. But I know John McCain too well to wish anything for him but this: that he meet in Hell all the Vietnamese he killed on behalf of Richard Nixon, who hated him; all the Iraqis he sentenced to die on behalf of George W. Bush, who hated him; and all the uninsured Americans he helped to an early grave on behalf of Donald Trump, who hated him. There can be no more suitable an end for an ignominious embarrassment of a man who spent his life doing bad while pretending he wanted so desperately to be good.