Thursday, October 9, 2008

An Open Letter to John McCain

By now, everyone is familiar with the negative direction taken by the McCain-Palin campaign. Obama has been accused of "pal[ling] around with terrorists," of being a secret Muslim fanatic, of being an outsider. "We don't know him," we hear over and over again. He's dangerous, we're told. He doesn't see America the way that we see America. And so on.

These attacks are morally repugnant, yes. I shan't go into detail about why, as I think it's a topic that has been addressed ad infinitum. Suffice it to say, I think this sort of thing runs against the principles upon which our country was founded, and for which our country is supposed to stand. I'm really much more interested in the question of just why you, Mr. McCain, are going along with this.

Oh, sure, I can theorize as to why your campaign has taken on this tack. Quite simply, I think the sort of folks that buy into this sort of thing may be all that you have left. As the economic crisis has reared its ugly head, and more voters have defected from the party perceived to have caused this mess, I think it's possible that you've been left with the guys who are too scared--of the unknown "Other," of terrorists, or what have you--to jump ship. From a political standpoint, if the folks most strongly in your camp are the ones that respond to this sort of thing, why not just appeal directly to your base? Perhaps from a political strategy viewpoint, this makes perfect sense.

Of course, the fact that there may be a motive behind this sort of campaigning does not excuse it. Sure, I can see why the Republican brass might take things in this direction. There is a status quo in place. A lot of people have a lot at stake in protecting that status quo. So, sure, I can understand why they might go to such lengths to accomplish their goals.

I think I can even understand where Governor Palin is coming from. Oh, sure, the things that are coming out of her mouth are fanning the flames of hatred, and I think it's very hypocritical for her to question Obama's qualifications, record, et cetera. But you know what? If the Republican brass approached me with a chance to become Vice President, I might accept it as well, woefully under-qualified or no. And I might spout whatever partisan rhetoric they told me to, as well; these guys, after all, are old hands at this. They must know what they're doing, right? Ms. Palin has already demonstrated that thinking for herself is not necessarily her forte; I think I understand how she finds herself here.

But I am extremely disappointed you, John McCain. While I have always identified more with Democrats than Republicans, the truth of the matter is, I used to like you. There was even a time (years past now, but still) when I even thought I'd be willing to vote for you. Here was a guy with such convictions that he'd stand up for what he believed in even when it went against the party line. Here was a guy that pissed off his own party as often as the other guys did. And he didn't seem to care, because this was what he believed in. Clearly a class act.

But now. Now. Oh, Senator McCain. I can't believe that, in your heart of hearts, you don't know that this is wrong. Listen to the things that people are saying, for heaven's sake. So you'd like to President instead of Mr. Obama; I can understand that. But this is a person, a real person, not just an opponent. He has a wife. And children. And family. And friends. Not to mention the support of at least half this country. That is a lot of people that, at the very least, would prefer not to hear these awful things said about him. And at worst? We don't want to see him get hurt because you were trying to win an election. I don't think you want that, either.

And please, don't hide behind the fact that you're not the one saying the really inflammatory stuff. I know, it wasn't you that yelled "terrorist" or "commie fag" or "kill him." And you have no control over people's thoughts, or the words that come out of their mouths. But you do, sir, have a responsibility to condemn this sort of talk. Because your silence is tantamount to acceptance, Mr. McCain, and I don't think this is who you really are. In any event, Mr. Obama has been forced to denounce the support of individuals who have been identified with intolerance and unrest (Rev. Wright and Louis Farrakhan spring to mind). Are you unwilling to dissociate yourself with an entire atmosphere of bigotry because votes are votes? You are better than this, sir.

In short, Mr. McCain, Governor Palin is new to Washington, and new to us. She has an excuse for engaging in this kind of behavior (not a justification, mind you, but an excuse). But you, sir? We expected better from you. Or at least, I did.

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