By Julianne Malveaux
I don’t agree with Arizona Senator John McCain about very much, but I was saddened by his recent diagnosis of brain cancer. He says he will be back on the Senate floor soon, sparring with Democrats. I say, “Bring it on, McCain.”
McCain is a patriot. He has been a thorn in 45’s side since the 2016 campaign. He has been especially critical of the occupant of the Oval Office on his relationship with Russia. He is a principled Republican, quite a contrast to 45. He has been fierce, feisty, and also gracious.
When McCain lost the Presidential election in November 2008, his concession speech was an exceptional acknowledgement of an historic election, and its symbolic importance to African American people. He said: “This is a historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.
I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation to Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.”
Notice the difference between McCain and 45. He knows history, knows that Booker T. Washington is deceased, not alive and well (as 45 thought Frederick Douglas was). He acknowledges the importance of the Obama election, and also acknowledges our nation’s history of discrimination. While I don’t agree with all of McCain’s soaring sentiments, I am moved by his grace. And, again in contrast to 45, he acknowledged President Obama, while 45 spent years disparaging him with his “birther” arguments.
To be sure, I wish that McCain would be more vocal in his opposition to 45. And I do hope that, as he recovers from brain cancer, he has the opportunity to reflect on the quality of health care that he is receiving, a quality of health care that most Americans can’t afford. Still, McCain’s diagnosis afforded an opportunity for me to consider the Arizona Senator’s importance, and to remember his gracious response to losing the 2008 election.
In his 2008 speech, McCain asked people to offer “our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.” Lofty words. Instead, Republicans opposed President Obama at every turn, and have yet to attempt to work with Democrats. Senate Republican leaders drafted health insurance legislation without involving Democrats in any of the drafting. The “take it or leave it attitude” is part of the reason that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can’t get legislation passed. Republicans can hardly compromise with each other, let alone Democrats. We could stand some of McCain’s sage wisdom as the Senate tackles health care, but he is among those who seem to have placed partisanship over principle.
It would be nice to have more Republicans with John McCain’s dispositions (though not, necessarily, his positions). I wish him a speedy recovery; his civility will be missed. Furthermore, we need him to be that Republican thorn in 45’s side.
Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Founder of Economic Education. Her podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J” is available on iTunes. Her latest book “Are We Better Off: Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available via amazon.com.