Every time somebody in politics dies, that's when you start to understand the true legacy they left behind based on the things people say about them.
Yesterday was the death of former Arizona Senator John McCain; but it was also the day when a lot of defining factors in American politics came to light. Some people mourned, some people celebrated, and some people said a thing to the effect of, "well, I didn't agree with stuff he did, but sure I hope he rests in peace."
For instance, President Trump bid condolences to the McCain family, yet kept quiet about his actions while he was alive.
Your reaction to McCain's death yesterday says a lot about you as a voter.
On the surface, McCain seemed like a complex figure; he was a Republican conservative who challenged Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, yet he was loved by Democrats and hated by almost half of Republicans when he died. Check out this poll from Fox:
People on the left called him a 'Nazi' and 'racist' for rejecting social-justice-style identity politics in 2008, and people on the modern right call him a globalist and warmongerer for his involvement in wars in the Middle East. The attacks on him in 2008 seem kinda similar to the current attacks on Trump:
But the truth is that this isn't a sometimes-left versus sometimes-right thing, and McCain wasn't a hit-or-miss kind of guy. He represented a specific marker in our politics, and it has nothing to do with being on the right or the left.
It has everything to do with his relationship with modern populism.
McCain was very much what you might call an establishment leader. His mentality followed that of big-city academics, intelligence authorities, and Washington ‘elite’. He was very connected and liked in Washington; some might argue he was disconnected in other ways. He disliked President Trump, to the extent that he didn't even want him to show up to his funeral, and he refused to side with him on some of the most defining Trump campaign measures, such as Obamacare skinny repeal.
McCain was not anti-Republican or even a real member of the Resistance. In Congress, McCain sided with Trump on 83% of his positions, which is pretty damn solid for Republicans.
However, their rivalry extended deeper than that. From where I'm standing, it was a war of culture. McCain was an experienced political ideologue, while Trump is a pragmatic populist. Trump's opinions commonly reflect that of your apolitical cousin in West Virginia. Or your great-uncle in Boca Raton. They're circumstantial and untethered by political correctness and idealism which is so prevalent in big cities.
McCain frequently complained that Trump was "firing up the crazies" with his views. In other words, the people who talk like Trump and aren't super connected to one set of principles.
The problem is, that mentality represents most Americans. I'm not even talking about Trump supporters right now. I'm talking about ordinary, apolitical Americans who don't live in Washington, D.C. or San Francisco, and get their news from hitting up Twitter or listening to the radio in the mornings on the way to work.
McCain's party was never the modern Republican Party. And the modern Republican Party is nothing like it used to be. If it were, you wouldn't have this massive slew of Bernie Sanders supporters showing up to the polls in support of Donald Trump in 2016. The Republican Party is this term's populist party. And McCain was nothing close to a populist.
If it were up to me, we wouldn't even be talking in terms of Republican or Democrat. But that’s already a different discussion.
So, to predict your reaction to McCain's death in the most simplistic (idiotic Pardes?) terms possible:
If you voted for McCain in 2008 and then voted for Hillary, you probably mourned.
If you voted for Obama in 2008 and then voted for Trump, you probably celebrated.
If you voted for Obama in 2008 and then voted for Hillary, you said something like, "well I didn't agree with him but at least he tried to stop Trump."
If you voted for McCain in 2008 and then voted for Trump, you said something like, "well I didn’t like that he sided with Democrats but at least he stuck to his conservative principles."
And if you didn’t vote for any of those guys, you probably reacted just as you would when any American dies. RIP.