Last fall, I began to reflect on what values built my political viewpoint, and came to the conclusion that many aligned with the ideals of conservative thought. In our current climate, this was a little hard to accept at first. My family identifies as staunchly liberal, and many friends share similar sentiments. Even with wonderful conservative role models, the social expectation to have similar political beliefs was a looming shadow. I was nervous. In a time when politics are so polarized, declaring allegiance to one group literally shuns you from the other. It was at this point that Senator John McCain and his views imprinted on me as a republican leader. The late McCain lived his life as a man who upheld conservative values, even in the face of his party’s wrath.
My first impression of the McCain was from his 2008 bid for presidency. As young children often will, I blindly followed my parents in their support for the then Senator, Barack Obama. When Obama was later elected, all I knew of McCain was his he lost and that his running mate was quite the character. It was not until President Donald Trump ran for office that I began to look at McCain and truly see his republican ideals that are now at risk. McCain stood up on many accounts for what he believed in and called out his party’s endorsement of Trump, focusing more on continuing the republican ideals than simply backing a third party that doesn’t fit the republican mold. Through that initial admiration of his dedication to party beliefs, I began to look into his policies, and realized how much I agreed with them.
One of these policies was global warming. On the campaign trail, McCain made this statement about foreign oil: “Foreign oil is a serious threat to our security, our economy and the well-being of our planet,” a concept almost all republicans argue against today. Global warming is easily one of the republican party’s biggest issues. I cannot find a suitable answer as to why global warming, a clear cut issue, is misconstrued in current context to be a against conservative republican values.
Theodore Roosevelt, a republican political figurehead still today, advocated for the National Park systems. To see the current republican party go against that conservation ideal is a tragedy. In fact, the most recent tax bill gives a portion of land from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to the state to drill for oil. With that secession of land, comes the stark truth that the current republican party is more invested in making money than upholding age-old values of conservation.
Another topic of which I agree with McCain, but disagree with current decisions, is immigration. This issue hits close to home for me as I am Mexican-American. I am proud of my culture, and I have parents who balanced both my Anglo-German culture, and my Mexican culture. But one of the biggest heartaches recently is the current treatment of immigration within the party. McCain gave his support for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, a bill that sought to give citizenship to 12 million undocumented immigrants, just ten years ago. This is contrasted by the republican party under Trump today that succeeded in blocking the DREAM Act, a bill set to phase alien minors into the United States. The bill got nowhere, blocked by the Trump administration. McCain, on the other hand, understood the economic value that immigrants bring in versus using fear-mongering to present them as a threat. The work immigrants do is not glorious, but is a powerhouse within the American economy. Jobs such as field hands, janitors, food workers, and other “small” blue collar jobs often equate to very little pay and benefits. Our economy would crumble without the hard work of immigrants in the United States, both legal and illegal.
McCain’s death marked the fall of a republican titan. His death is a great loss for conservative thought and ideals when we need reflection on them the most. His fight against what has become mainstream republicanism branded him as a maverick. He never wavered from his viewpoints, no matter how unpopular they seemed. His bipartisan cooperation with democrats, and President Obama, is what it means to be a man of the people, for the people. As a republican in 2018 looking for leaders, he will be missed.