Wait, hear me out.
John McCain should have won last night.
Internationally, America is a country at war on two fronts or more. We've been at this war longer than we were in WWII. America is a country in the throes of a deepening recession - or economic downturn, or Wall Street meltdown, or economic retrograde motion, choose your own non-panic inducing euphemism here. America is a country that has burnt a lot of bridges in the last eight years; we've alienated many of our old friends, and snuggled up against some new allies who aren't the most reliable. America is a country facing the loss of its long standing position in the world and our dollar doesn't buy nearly what it used to - which is going to have some serious consequences when you consider that our gas comes from the Middle East, our cars from Japan and Germany, our minerals from Africa, our tech support from India, our clothes from Mexico, our consumer electronics and seafood and lumber from China, our porn from Russia, our beef from Argentina, and our fresh produce from Latin America.
Domestically, Americans face a crisis at every turn, public education, mortgages, health care, agriculture, failing infrastructure, energy, industry and manufacturing, social security and vanished retirement funds, job security, in the inner cities, in the suburbs, environmentally.
There are damned few American voters who aren't aware of these things. And there are damned few Americans who, at least in their hearts even if they can't admit it out loud, don't know that the last eight years are the result of dishonorably weak, willfully ignorant, proudly illiterate, blusteringly jingoistic, and just plain cowardly piss-poor leadership from the White House.
Many Americans are afraid. David Klecha over on Midnight Highways said, "I’m tired of fear and despair" and I think he speaks directly to the general sentiment of most Americans. We're tired of fear. We're tired of being afraid of terrorism. We're tired of war. We're tired of being hated. We're tired of fearing our government. We're tired of being ashamed of our idiot leaders who tell us to be afraid. And we despair that this is the best we can expect and things will only get worse unless we do something. We need a leader of vision and verve and determination who we can follow with trust and admiration and confidence.
And so we entered this presidential election with two choices: 1) a relatively unknown, inexperienced Democrat, and 2) a well known Republican war hero, experienced and savvy in the military, foreign relations, domestic issues, and economics. Obama is young, handsome and popular, intelligent, and well educated - but a neophyte in many of the problem areas facing America, and with unproven and unknown leadership skills in a national crisis. McCain is older, extremely experienced, intelligent, and a powerful leader with proven skills and fortitude in crisis both large and small - and on the face of things a far better choice to solve the problems before us in a decisive and immediate manner.
McCain should have won.
And yet, he didn't. And, in point of fact, McCain lost his bid for the White House by a very large margin, one that cannot be significantly contested in any way shape or form. I don't want to get into the argument of mandates or landslides, but the truth of the matter is that a black man, the son of a foreigner, one generation removed from Islam, with the strange alien name of Barack Hussein Obama beat the ever living snot out of a military war hero and the very epitome of the traditional American presidential genotype.
McCain should have won.
So, how come he didn't?
There are many dynamics here, and ones that the pundits and grad students and political analysts and historians will debate for decades - but in my not so humble opinion, it comes down to one simple thing:
John McCain forgot who he was.
See, John McCain is the son of Admirals, he was a graduate of the US Naval Academy and for 22 years he was a US Navy Officer. We in the navy hold most dear as our core values three things: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. And the simple truth of the matter is that Captain John McCain USN(ret) forgot that. He gave in to desperation, he gave in to the whispers and advice of small cowardly men who never knew the strength and power of such ideals, he gave in to those who told him that he needed only the support of his party and not the support of all Americans, and more than anything he gave in to the urge to pander to the far right radical fear-mongers. He gave in to dishonor and fear and a commitment to the politics of hate.
John McCain had the audacity to look surprised when his chickens came home to roost - the same as any parent who uses the term "nigger" in their private home conversation, and then acts shocked and surprised when their own children use the same term in public at the most inopportune moment, "Oh! Sorry. I don't know where he picked that up!" Oops, how embarrassing - but we all know exactly where that child picked up that word, don't we? I'm speaking of course of the defining moment of the McCain campaign: Gayle Quinnel's now infamous statement, "I've read about Obama ... and he's an Arab!" during a McCain rally on national television. McCain didn't look surprised, only embarrassed and irritated, and replied "No ma'am. He's a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." The expression on his face and the tone of his voice said clearly, "Oh my! I don't know where she picked that up!" Oops, how embarrassing.
Yes, how embarrassing indeed. For all of us.
Especially when I'm quite sure that John McCain knew exactly where old fearful conservative Gayle Quinnel picked up that thought - directly from the McCain campaign itself, from McCain himself, from Sarah Palin, and from every Neocon who was out there stumping for them. The McCain campaign's statements are a matter of public record, Obama is a terrorist, Obama consorts with terrorists, Obama is a racist, Obama consorts with black supremacists, Obama is an Arab, Obama is a Muslim, Obama is a radical Islamist, Obama isn't an American, Obama wasn't even born in the United States, Obama doesn't have a birth certificate, Obama is the anti-Christ (no, seriously), Obama's wife hates America and hates white people, Obama is a Marxist, Obama is a Socialist, on and on ad nauseam. Conservatives can deny this all they like, but they know that I'm right and they damned well know what was said. Many of them still believe those statements, many of them are still repeating this nonsense and will until they die, despite all evidence to the contrary. McCain's campaign made Obama the enemy, not simply the political opposition. McCain's campaign wasn't in a race, they were at war, and just like in any war they set about vilifying the enemy just as we've always done, except this time it wasn't the krauts, or the nips, or the gooks, or the slopes, or the camel jockeys - it was Obama.
Certainly John McCain himself didn't say all of those things in public, but his running mate did, and members of his campaign did, and his party did, and his supporters did. And John McCain let it stand, taking exception to the rhetoric and the fear and the hate only when confronted directly with it on national television - and then only in a half-hearted ambiguous manner, one that showed he knew exactly where that frightened old lady picked up that thought, one that showed quite clearly that he was depending on a lot of frightened Americans just like Gayle Quinnel in order to win the White House.
Any Navy Captain worth his salt understands this one thing above all others: you are personably responsible for everything that happens under your command. Everything. And the conduct of your crew is a direct reflection on you. Period. And it makes me wonder exactly what kind of officer John McCain actually was. I'm not so crass as to stand here and judge the service of a man I've never served under, but I have to wonder, where were those who did? Where were his fellow EPW's? Where were the Chiefs and Officers who served under his command when he returned from Hanoi? Because many of them them are remarkably silent.
John McCain could have won, and won easily, if he had been true to his training, if he had held true to the principles of Naval Leadership. He called himself a Maverick, but the simple truth of the matter is that he acted more like a stable nag - that old gelding at the YMCA summer camp who has trodden the same worn trail so many times that it will not deviate from the path no matter how hard its 8-year old rider yanks on the reins. Round and round and back to the barn for a pan of grain. Every day, more of the same, year after year, until the glue truck comes to take it away. And in this case that old worn trail is the politics of hate and fear and xenophobia.
John McCain should have won and he could have if he had held true to his oath as a Naval Officer, if he had spoken out forcefully against the failed Bush doctrine of torture, secret prisons, rendition, extra-constitutional surveillance of Americans, preemptive war, the degradation of the Constitutional Bill of Rights, the Nuclear Option. If he was a true maverick, then he would have defied the radical elements of his party and directly supported the right to choose, the strict separation of church and state, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, life, liberty, and happiness for all Americans - even the gay ones. He should have lived up to the basic ethic of any Navy captain and taken responsibility for the actions of his crew, he should have stated clearly and forcefully and as many times it took: "Barrack Obama is my opponent not my enemy, and I will not see him vilified on my watch and I will NOT allow anyone in my campaign to do so. If you must hate this man then you should join the American Nazi Party, I do not want your vote. I will win this election on my strengths, not on Obama's weaknesses, and if you don't believe in me enough to believe that I am that man, then don't vote for me." John McCain should have done what any Navy Captain does with his crew, give them hope, make them believe, inspire them, remind them of their duty, make them proud, and always lead them by example.
John McCain should have won - if he was the man he claimed to be.
John McCain should have won - if he had acted like the Naval Officer he once was and held true to Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
John McCain should have won - if he was a true maverick.
But see, John McCain is not a maverick, and - if we have to use the horse analogy -he is merely the second coming of the same old neocon cavalry. His message is the same message we've been hearing since September 12, 2001, and it's a message that the American people are tired of.
It the final analysis, it was Barack Obama's message that resonated with the American people. In the end, overwhelmingly last night, Americans said experience is nothing if not tempered with wisdom. John McCain had many things going for his candidacy, age, experience, heroism - but he offered us nothing that we didn't already have.
Obama offered us hope.
Today, well, today is an amazing day. Today the American flag is being waved by singing Muslims in the streets of Kenya. Today the America flag is flying above joyous crowds in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and even in the Middle East.
Today, for the first time in a long, long while the majority of Americans feel hope, and the world is hopeful with us.
Today, a very clear message rings forcefully over our nation, We are tired of fear and despair and we have chosen a new path.
Today, we have sent a message to the White House, the House of Representatives, and to the Senate and that message is this: You work for us.
Today, we have sent a message to the NeoCons: You don't own this country, you do not speak for us, you are not the majority.
Today, we have defined exactly what history will write of George W. Bush and his presidency of hate, fear, and despair.
Today, we have elected not a maverick, but a true leader.
Today, is a good day.
*I updated this because I received an email from Jon in California who said that he wasn't sure if I was upset at McCain's loss or not. Rereading it, I realized that I'd left out a connecting paragraph due to an interrupting phone call (no, it wasn't Uncle Ted). So, I put that paragraph back in.
But just so I'm completely clear, no I'm not in the least upset that McCain lost. In fact, I'm overjoyed.