The Democrats need to stop patting their backs about praising John McCain

When a Republican crosses party lines, liberals cheer; but when a Democrat does it, they jeer

Since the death of  military veteran and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain, we have been inundated with editorials mourning the loss of the great Republican “Maverick.” From “The New York Times”  to our own “Vanderbilt Hustler,” the media has extolled a man who was praised by Democrats for reaching across the aisle to vote against his own party, for putting morals above partisanship.  But this begs the question: does this praise truly come from admiration of defying party norms? Do liberals, like myself, love John McCain for his unwavering commitment to morals? Or is it rather his occasional votes with the Democrats that have earned him this praise?

For instance, McCain was praised for attempting to liberalize immigration laws in clear defiance of his own party. Additionally, regarding Republican George W. Bush’s tax cuts, McCain said, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.” In both cases he was made by news outlets to be a martyr, resolved in his moral purity no matter the political cost. However, these same compliments are not extended to Democrats who vote with conservatives. Dan Lipinski, a Chicago Congressman who voted against the Affordable Care Act, has been criticized numerous times by progressive Democrats, inviting a high-profile left-wing primary challenge in his 2018 midterm campaign. Barack Obama’s personal team attacked Lipinski for, like McCain, refusing to compromise his values; former Obama National Finance Committee member John Atkinson said, “This is about calling out hypocrisy, frankly. And letting the voters know what their representative’s actually doing in Congress and the fact that lying to them about his record and about his allegiances is not going to be tolerated.”

Examples abound. Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from deep red West Virginia, was lambasted by news outlets for voting to confirm Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. When looked at in conjunction with praise of McCain, this criticism seems hypocritical. While McCain was a man of idealism, Manchin was detailed as a practitioner of political expediency, ready to jump party lines the moment it suited his reelection interests. Why is voting with Republicans as a Democrat a nefarious operation, while voting with Democrats as a Republican an act of valor?

To pretend that the Democratic party is the pinnacle of principlism, ready to defend anyone who stands up for their true beliefs is delusional. Just like Republicans, Democrats want to make political gains. In McCain’s case, this meant lauding a Republican who, more than most in the GOP, supported liberal policies. This is not a reprehensible move by any means, but we must lift up the veil of Democratic righteousness that has been prevalent since McCain’s death.

Zeke Berger is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at stephen.e.berger@vanderbilt.edu.

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