The death of John McCain marked the end of an inspiring era in American politics. Senator McCain hailed from a time when politics were kinder, gentler, and partisanship was a dirty word. Now it’s all partisanship all the time. It’s beyond time to change that. Partisanship and political extremism have infected politics all the way down to the local level.
I’ve been actively engaged in politics since 2012 when I landed an internship on the county mayoral campaign of moderate Democrat Ben McAdams. Those were heady times for Utah Democrats. Barack Obama and Jim Matheson were still in office, plus McAdams was on his way up (still is, I hope). Everything was going splendidly.
Then the 2016 presidential election happened and the rise of democratic socialist and progressive Bernie Sanders caused a massive infusion of new blood into the Democratic Party. Since that time, I’ve felt a definite shift in what is considered mainstream. Moderate and Blue Dog Democrats seem to be losing more relevance with each passing day, as progressive Democrats continue to gain traction.
I believe in the importance of standing by your own political beliefs, but voting against someone based on a single issue seems unwise in the long-term. One situation that comes to mind is the Jonathan Swinton vs. Misty K. Snow race for the Democratic nomination of senator in 2016. Swinton, a moderate Democrat and eminently more qualified candidate, had a very shaky position on abortion and ended up losing to Snow, a progressive Democrat. Snow lost to Senator Mike Lee in the general by a monumental margin. I’m not saying Swinton would have won, but I feel that he would have performed better at the polls. As Ronald Reagan said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”
I can’t help but see parallels with the Republican Party’s own ideological shift. The GOP used to have a sizable bloc of moderate and even liberal voters; they were the party of civil rights. The Southern strategy and other factors caused a massive influx of extremely conservative voters. All of this culminated in the rise of the Tea Party movement and, ultimately, Donald J. Trump’s ascension to the presidency. Once the party of pragmatic conservatives like Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and both George Bushes, the national GOP today is mired in extremism and hyper-partisanship. The Dems are headed down the same path, with less hateful rhetoric but still…
There are times where I really hate politics and wish I’d never gotten involved. In the end, I accept the notion that politics is indeed the vehicle by which change occurs and society ultimately moves forward. As the country begins to forge a post-McCain path, it would be a wonderful opportunity to try and fix things. He would have wanted nothing less. In that spirit, may politicians remember the example he set.
Compromise is not evil; it’s the way forward.
At the end of the day, we all want this country to succeed. Republicans and Democrats have so much more in common than they care to admit. “But we should be mindful as we argue about our differences that so much more unites than divides us,” said Senator McCain. “We should also note that our differences, when compared with those in many, if not most, other countries, are smaller than we sometimes imagine them to be.”