Is John McCain’s “Voice From the Grave” a Message for Us at a Tipping Point?

Sheila Markin is a former Assistant US Attorney.  She helps people to understand in plain English what is going on in US politics today.  Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a post!

John McCain carefully planned his own funeral.  He chose speakers to eulogize him who would send a message to America about his hope for the future of our country.  By choosing Barack Obama and George Bush to eulogize him, he was making a clear statement about his hope for a country where we could differ with each other politically, but maintain respect for each other. He believed in a political world where people could argue but also know they are on the same team, trying for what’s best for the country we love. 

McCain’s “voice” at his funeral was a strong imperative to reclaim the America that he believed in and fought for.  As his daughter Meghan said, “The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold.  She is resourceful and confident and secure.  She meets her responsibilities.  She speaks quietly because she is strong.  America does not boast because she has no need to.  The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.”  After that there was applause.   A rare event for a eulogy.

Could McCain’s “voice” from the grave be a tipping point moment in America? 

Ever since Trump descended the escalator at Trump Tower to declare that Mexicans are rapists and that he would run for president to save us from immigrants, our country has been at war with itself. Emboldened illiberal factions in our country that were relatively suppressed before, have come out from under their rocks to jeer and deride the snowflakes, elites, and minorities.  White supremacists have felt free to express themselves in vile rants and marches (although the last one in DC was a bust).  Trump represents the culmination of many decades of gestation of the venomous fear about the browning of America by an aging, emotionally and economically damaged group of mostly white Americans.  Trump rose to power on the energy of that fear.  And since becoming president he has fueled divisiveness.  Trump needs to stoke the culture wars because he maintains power from that divisive energy. 

In short, we have been experiencing a kind of open vitriolic cultural warfare with Trump leading the way with his rageful Tweets and demagogic rallies.  We are in a sort of new version of the  Civil War.

How are we going to get out of this embattled state of our nation?

I think McCain shows us some of the way forward.

FIRST, reject the warmonger in the Oval Office.  Mc Cain did that.  Trump was not invited to these events.  McCain pointedly shut Trump up.  No one mentioned his name in their remarks.  

The worst punishment of all for Trump is to be ignored and irrelevant.  I yearn for the day that the press understands that his press conferences are not worth covering.  They are not newsworthy.  They are filled with misinformation and lies.  Mainstream media should stop covering Trump’s rallies and no one should show up for the Sarah Huckabee Sanders lie-a-thon press conferences. Twitter really ought to delete his account because he is a relentless bully.  But even if Twitter doesn’t do it, we can do it.  Delete Trump from your life to whatever extent you can.  Put a check on him by voting straight ticket Democrat from now until whenever the Republicans get the message they cannot be toothless enablers of Trump.  Work to support candidates that will put a check on Trump by removing as many Republicans from office as possible.  Once elected, any Republican will be co-opted in this current administration.  

SECOND, Americans need to bravely face the truth.

I think McCain always did that.  He could look at reality without blinking even when he was facing his deadly cancer diagnosis.  Americans are now slowly but surely learning the truth about Trump and his corrupt buddies in a rising tide of investigations, plea deals, and criminal trials.  These criminal matters are now and will continue in the future to pry open a giant can full of wormy secrets about Trump’s past and present criminal activity and his bargain with the Russians.  We may well learn that Trump was the Manchurian candidate that is now the Manchurian president.

The fear is that Trump will dispose of Sessions and hollow out the investigation by firing Sessions and then putting someone in charge in an “interim” position for 120 days who will damage or destroy the investigation.  I believe that if Trump does try to stifle the probe, we will get our version of Deep Throat.  We are going to get the truth one way or another.  The easy solution to preserve the investigation would be for a blue wave Congress to re-structure the Special Counsel role to be outside the grip of Trump’s power.  Given that Trump is a subject and perhaps even a target of the investigation at this point, it is a total conflict of interest for him to have control over the viability of the probe.

As facts and evidence emerge, Americans are turning their backs on Trump.  Trump’s approval numbers are trending down, and Mueller’s approval numbers are trending up.  60% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance.  41% strongly disapprove of him.  Guiliani and Trump’s disinformation campaign against Robert Mueller is also failing to work with 63% supporting Mueller, 64% saying Sessions should not be fired and 67% saying the case against Manafort is justified.

Nixon’s poll numbers before his impeachment were better than Trump’s are now. 

A group of former moderate Republicans is quietly disengaging itself from Trump and abandoning the Republican Party which accounts for the large number of Republicans who support Trump’s positions at 90% or the high 80% range.  The reason for Republican relatively high approval is that fewer and fewer people are willing to say they are Republicans.  And even with his strong supporters, Trump’s approval rating is coming down.  In July Republican approval was 87% but as of September first it is 78%, a drop of 9 points.  Soft Republicans are relabeling  themselves as Independents.  With Independents Trump’s approval rating has gone from 44% in July to 35% now which is a drop of 9 points.  Trump is left with his hard-core base which is perhaps 35% of the electorate boiled down to the tarry dregs of humanity.

To get to the truth we also need open hearings.  If the Democrats win back the House, there will be open hearings instead of the worthless ones we have gotten with Republicans like Devin Nunes in the House Intelligence Committee sneaking around behind closed doors, using taxpayer money to fly to England to try to meet with British intelligence officers to discredit the Steele Dossier and Bruce Ohr, allowing witnesses to lie without repercussions, and acting as Trump’s enablers by generally trying to discredit the investigation and the people who will ultimately bring us the truth.  Imagine the effect of testimony everyone would watch on TV to hear directly from witnesses about what happened to us with the Russian influence campaign and with the bargain Trump made with them to get himself elected.  We need those open hearings along with the upcoming criminal trials to help everyone know the facts. 

When I worked as a prosecutor I was impressed by the common sense of jurors.  They took their duty as jurors seriously.  They believed the facts and evidence and applied common sense.  

I believe most Americans do have common sense and a significant number of them will continue to turn away from Trump not only because of a rising tide of facts and evidence, but also a rising tide of worry they will have about their own lives.  New increased annual costs for health insurance will be coming out this fall.  Americans aren’t going to like what they will have to pay as a result of the Republican assault on and dismantling of Affordable Care.

People are also having to learn the hard way the truth that protectionism does not work in a global era.  The higher cost of goods imported from China will affect their pocketbooks.  The tariff war will hurt their small businesses and farms. 

People also have to understand the truth about constricting visas and the effect it is having on our country.  People are unable to visit with relatives from other countries because new visa restrictions that are keeping immigrants out are also making it next to impossible for many to visit with family who live in foreign countries.  Visa restrictions are discouraging engineers and programmers from coming to work in our country.  Canada will get the benefit of our loss.

THIRD, the rule of law needs to be upheld.  I think McCain clearly believed that no one is above the law.  Trump cannot be above the law.  There need to be consequences for his corrupt practices and those of his administration and family.  If and when Trump refuses to respond to a subpoena, which is going to happen, all Americans need to stand up and tell their representatives they can’t allow that.  The Supreme Court in Nixon ruled 8 to 0 that a sitting president has to respond to a subpoena to produce evidence.  It should be no different for Trump if he gets a subpoena to testify.  Any other assertions that Trump is above the law need to be dispelled by all of us.

FOURTH, we also need to reject divisiveness and move towards healing and unity.  To do that we need to reach out to our fellow Americans who are willing to reciprocate. As Barack Obama said in his eulogy for McCain, we are all on the same team.  That’s what McCain understood so well having been in the military.  He tried to bring that viewpoint to Congress.  Unfortunately, at this point his party has been hijacked by Trump and Trumpism.  It was painful to watch Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Paul Ryan and the other Republicans paying tribute to McCain at a funeral that was a clear rebuke of Trump because they have gone to the dark side and become Trump’s enablers. It was the ultimate hypocrisy.

The Republican party needs to lose dramatically in 2018 so that they learn an important lesson about not aligning themselves with a demagogue.   

John McCain is gone but his voice from the grave at his funeral might be coming at just the right moment.  We could be at the tipping point moment with the midterms only 9 weeks away, Manafort’s trial about to start, and the fight against Kavanaugh beginning this week.  There is tremendous energy in  America right now with this coming election to re-take our country and recommit to our democratic values.  John McCain would be delighted if we could accomplish that. 

We have a lot of work to do.  

1) Ignore the warmonger in the White House and work to put a check on him. 

2) Bravely face the truth as it comes out. 

3) Have faith in the rule of law, insist on no man being above the law.  

4) Recommit to team USA and get out the vote so our country can get back to being America again.