American Democracy

862 Words4 Pages
It turns out that John McCain’s most important service to American democracy was not rendered in a P.O.W. camp in Vietnam. It’s being rendered right now in the U.S. Senate. In the first place, McCain seems to be the only member of Congress who insists on holding hearings and working toward compromise before passing major legislation. This would seem to be the very elemental prerequisite of good government — like a doctor seeking a diagnosis before performing surgery — but McCain appears to be the only member, or at least the only Republican, willing to risk unpopularity to insist upon a basic respect for our sacred institutions. Second, McCain is one of very few Republicans willing to stand up for the American story. Human beings can be…show more content…
Public figures are the primary teachers in this mutual education. Our leaders have outsize influence in either weaving the moral order by their good example or ripping it to shreds by their bad example. McCain’s career has had its low moments, as all of ours do — a banking scandal, Sarah Palin — but he exemplifies a practical standard of excellence to an extraordinary degree: enduring in Vietnam, seeking compromise legislation on everything from immigration reform to campaign spending, condemning torture after 9/11. Moreover, I don’t think there’s another politician now living who devotes so much of his speeches to little biographies of his own exemplars, people like James Stockdale, Bud Day, Morris Udall and Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez. He has turned his own heroes into educational resources for his country, and used them to evangelize our national ideals. These sorts of testimonies help weave a shared moral order, which is necessary to unite, guide and motivate a diverse country. That is an essential bulwark in the age of Trump. That is what needs rebuilding. Books will someday be written on how Trump, this wounded and twisted man, became morally acceptable to tens of millions of Americans. But it must have something to do with the way over the past decades we have divorced private and public morality, as if private narcissism would have no effect on public conduct. It must have something to do with
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