The recent death of Arizona’s Republican Senator, John McCain, has shed new light on the complex relationship between the parties in Congress.
John McCain passed away on August 25th after suffering a long, treacherous battle with brain cancer. Although many politicians and former presidents offered their condolences, including Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, President Donald Trump did not express too much sympathy.
According to a report by the New Zealand Herald, White House officials had to convince President Trump to make a statement about McCain following his death. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump thought McCain’s extensive press coverage was “over the top.” But Trump has already professed his sentiment towards John McCain when he previously stated, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
However, McCain supported Trump’s presidential candidacy until Access Hollywood leaked a recording of Trump engaging in “locker-room talk,” where he bragged about sexually assaulting a woman. Later, John McCain referred to Trump’s politics as “half-baked, spurious nationalism,” and “a tired dogma of the past,” at the 2017 Medal Award Ceremony. Hostile relations have existed between them and their followers ever since.
The press frames John McCain as a hero by repeatedly sharing his experiences as a P.O.W. (prisoner of war) in Vietnam and commemorating him on his accomplishments as Senator. However, politicians aren’t making as much of an effort to preserve his legacy.
Last Tuesday, the Senate congregated to put forth ideas on how to remember their deceased colleague. Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, proposed renaming a conference room after McCain or putting a portrait of him in the halls. Yet, when Democratic Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, proposed to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after McCain, Republicans turned a cold a shoulder.
This response may seem unkind, but it was no secret that McCain was more left-leaning than most of his republican colleagues. He often clashed heads with his colleagues on important policy issues, such as gay-marriage, campaign-finance reform, and immigration reform. Liberals regarded him as a “maverick,” but his own party would have likely used the term nuisance.
John McCain only held a 51% favorability rating among his own party, while the Democrats gave him a 71% favorability rating, according to a Gallup Poll published in August of last year. His rating plummeted after vetoing a G.O.P. replacement bill for Obamacare in 2017, while his rating amongst Democrats increased 22 percent.
Nonetheless, why are Republicans hesitant to pay their respects to a well-known Republican giant? Well, a senate G.O.P. aide retaliated on the senate floor last Tuesday by claiming, “This is Chuck Schumer trying to make us hug John McCain, knowing damned well that it will hurt us with our base back home.”
Therein lies the complexity of political relationships. It would be all well and good if the Republicans could leave their differences in the past and begrudgingly accept the proposal, but what would their constituents think? Some right wingers have even labeled John McCain as a “liberal in disguise,” and their representatives would not dare to say otherwise in fear of appearing inconsistent or disloyal.
Then again, Democrats in Congress knew John McCain had a low favorability rating among registered Republicans, therefore renaming the office building would be sure to create a stir. Senate Republicans pointed out their hypocrisy by noting that the Democrats chose not to rename the building after Senator Ted Kennedy when he passed away in 2009.
Whether we choose to believe Chuck Schumer’s intentions were to cause a conflict amongst Republicans or not, they are bound to face consequences. If the Republicans deny Schumer’s proposal, they will be scrutinized by the media. The proposal to rename the Russell Senate Office will remain in limbo as Congress continues to procrastinate it’s decision.
Nevertheless, many Republicans and Democrats show sympathy for McCain, despite their disagreements.
Katie Jensen can be