The other day I was discussing my thoughts about John McCain (as I find myself doing often these days) with someone who is still on the fence and who has obviously been affected by the smear tactics used by Republicans against Barack Obama. This person is one of the many who doesn’t necessarily vote Republican or Democrat; he believes that neither party–or anyone in politics for that matter–has his best interest in mind. He groups them all together as one lump of disingenuous, to use his word, assholes. I can’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment. I do think there is a tremendous amount of self-interest in any political endeavor. And this won’t ever drastically change while we are under a strictly two-party system. There are just too many political moves one must make when adhering to a certain dogma, to which a number of other people have hitched their wagons. That being said, on this point I argued that in this particular election we at least have an option who is drastically different than any other in recent memory. I do not need to give Barack Obama’s life story here, since he has done so already in a book and many others have given shortened versions elsewhere. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that that story is radically different than the upbringing–and in some cases it’s more like breeding–of many of our current politicians. He is not a Clinton, a Kennedy, or a Bush (Full disclosure: I will count myself among the camp that now considers John McCain a third Bush). I told my discussion partner that if he actually wanted to cast a vote in November for someone different than what he has seen, then there is really only one choice. (To this person’s credit, in my eyes anyway, he does put his money where his mouth is, so to speak, having voted for both Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura. An attempt anyway to jettison the two-party system.)
But this whole discussion isn’t why I am writing this. What I have been pondering lately more than how Obama is different than those who have come before is just how far John McCain has come to being exactly the same, or worse, than those who have come before. What sparked my interest most in this discussion I was having was my discussion partner’s statement that at least John McCain was “genuine,” to which I replied, “I may have said the same thing eight years ago.” Now, eight years ago I was a junior in college and maybe more worried about a creative writing class, the lacrosse club, and which party I was going to attend on a Friday night than about the senator from Arizona. That is to say, my political interests didn’t get fully piqued until the nominees for both parties were already in place, so I wasn’t fully aware of all the skullduggery that led to G.W. being awarded that nomination. But it does seem to me that at least back then John McCain stood for something. Even if what he stood for wouldn’t always have fallen in line with my beliefs, he seemed to stand behind his own thoughts and opinions. His indictments of Bush in those days were scathing, to no political gain. But these last years have been nothing but a political ploy on the AZ Senator’s part. Once McCain knew he could not beat Bush he started, slowly at first and now full steam ahead, to put his ducks in a row for this very moment, for the chance to be President of the United States. Beliefs be damned, the man only wants one thing. That title is his only desire, and apparently his only reason for anything he does right now. I see no other way to explain how someone who was courted by the Democrats four years ago to jump ship and run as Vice President with John Kerry could fall so in line with the Right’s agenda, other than, as Robert Reich puts it, the ends justify the means. What I have seen from John McCain over the last eight years does not strike me as actions I would attribute to a “genuine” person.