Today, following John McCain's death on Saturday, there's been lots of media coverage of McCain's life, courage, and maverick'ness.
I also want to honor this American hero, even though I'm a liberal who didn't agree with McCain on most of his policy positions -- though I heartily share his commitment to recognizing climate change as a reality and his voting to preserve the Affordable Care Act.
Now I realize there's some debate about how moderate McCain was. A Slate article argues that he was a conservative, not a moderate. Wikipedia, though, presents evidence pointing to McCain being at least moderately a moderate.
The non-partisan National Journal published an analysis of members of Congress in which it gave McCain a composite ideological rating of 60% conservative and 40% liberal in 2013. On The Issues, a non-partisan and non-profit organization, identifies McCain as a "Libertarian Conservative." In 2017, the American Conservative Union gave McCain a 57% grade based on their positions and the ACU gives him an 81% lifetime conservative score; the American Civil Liberties Union, which focuses on civil rights and liberties, gave McCain a 53% rating in 2014. In 2013, Americans for Democratic Action, a progressive political action committee, gave him a rating of 20% in line with their positions.
Regardless, McCain definitely was less extreme than most, if not all, of his Senate GOP colleagues.
And we have to remember that over the past few decades, Congress has gotten much more polarized, with Republicans becoming considerably more conservative than Democrats have become more liberal. This fact is evident by a perusal of charts included in a 2014 Washington Post story, "How Congress became so partisan, in 4 charts."
You can see that Congressional Republicans shifted rightward between 1970 and 2012 to a much greater degree than Democrats shifted leftward.
Almost certainly, the polarization is even worse now. And since Republicans are more responsible for this than Democrats, arguably I should be asking conservatives to honor McCain by being more moderate for a moment. But since I'm a liberal, I'm addressing this request to my own "tribe."
What I mean by being more moderate for a moment is taking a few minutes to ponder this question: On what national issues do you feel the other side (in this case, conservatives) is largely or entirely correct?
I readily admit that when I asked myself this question, at first it jarred my psyche. I'm so accustomed to disagreeing with Trump and his fellow Republicans, my brain didn't want to entertain the notion that they were correct on anything.
Eventually, though, I was able to come up with a few issues where I feel I share some common ground with Republicans.
(1) Border security. I'm not in favor of building Trump's wall along our southern border, especially since Mexico isn't going to pay for it. However, it does bother me that the border is so porous. Immigration to the United States is important for both economic and moral reasons. However, I agree with Republicans that this should be an orderly process, not one that can be "gamed" by crossing the border illegally.
(2) Free trade. This is sort of a difficult issue to weigh in on, since Trump's opposition to free trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO aligns him with many liberals. Traditionally, though, Republicans have been in favor of free trade. It seems clear that on the whole, free trade has benefitted the world. Lots of people have been lifted out of poverty in China, India, and elsewhere. Yes, some jobs have been lost in the United States, but in general our country also benefits from free trade.
(3) Iran sanctions. I should give this a 50-50 sort of agreement with Republicans, because I'm not as solid on this issue. However, a recent TIME magazine story about the reinstatement of sanctions against Iran after Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement opened my mind to the possibility that this could turn out to be a good thing, though at first I was confident it wasn't. Iran is indeed a bad actor in the Middle East. Pressure needs to be put on Iran to change its terrorist-sponsoring ways.
Apparently Iran hasn't been using the money it gained from the lifting of sanctions to improve economic conditions in the country, and thereby benefit ordinary Iranians. Instead Iran has been using much of that money for nefarious purposes. Here's an excerpt from the TIME story.
National pride, including memories of Persian empires, also figures in Iran’s regional ambitions. But there is little doubt, says Nathan Sales, counterterrorism coordinator at the State Department, that “you’re seeing an intensification of Iranian support for terrorism and other malign activity.” U.S. State Department officials estimate that in Syria alone, Tehran floated Assad more than $4 billion in credit to purchase oil and other goods from Iran, munificence that would not have been possible without JCPOA sanctions relief on Iran’s economy.
I could be wrong about the Iran sanctions issue. But that's OK. Sometimes being more moderate, rather than politically dogmatic, means stretching one's comfort zone into unfamiliar territory.
I'm convinced that our country would be much better off if both sides of the political spectrum drew closer together -- with the caveat, as noted above, that Republicans need to do the most moving to the center, because they've become the most extreme.
It's a useful exercise to pause now and then to consider how the Other Side might be correct about some issues, rather than reflexively considering that nothing is good about what our political opponents stand for.
Lastly, I'll note that Trump quashed plans to issue a White House statement praising McCain, which shows what a jerk Trump is. Instead, Trump played golf today. So I, a Democrat, have done more to honor McCain that the President of the United States, a fellow Republican.