Opinion: John McCain is the Republican Party’s most important member

nicholas hunter headshot

nicholas hunter headshot

Nicholas Hunter

Last week, Arizona Sen. John McCain was one of only three republicans to vote down a measure that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.

The vote was preceded by a rousing speech from McCain, wherein he scolded members of the Senate for their haphazard attempt to overhaul the healthcare system. In the speech, he stressed a need to return to “normal order” and to be more thoughtful and careful in carrying out their legislative duties.

In dramatic fashion, McCain had come back to his seat in the Senate to cast his vote after being diagnosed with brain cancer just a week prior.

It was assumed by many that McCain was coming back to ensure the passage of ACA repeal, and he instead stood in its way (along with Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and every Democratic Senator).

I understand that there are issues I will always disagree with McCain on; After all, he’s an 80-year-old war vet Republican, and I’m a liberal, 21-year-old college student who feels bad when I kill a spider. A divide on politics is bound to exist.

But with the pull he has, it is perplexing that he allows himself to be pushed around so much. Yes, he voted down an attempt to repeal the ACA without replacement, but this is a single instance of him standing up against his party.

McCain has been in politics since 1982 and spent the 28 years before his political career serving in the U.S. Navy. In his 63 years of service to the country, he has earned massive and widespread respect from people of all political walks of life.

McCain has, in large part, been a cornerstone of respectable politics in an era where respect is not only political disadvantageous but is often laughed at from all sides.

He demonstrated this during the 2008 election, when he shut down questions that accused eventual-President Barack Obama of not being born in the United States, instead opting to stress that Obama is a good man and that politics is the issue between them.

This respect McCain has earned has also given him a lot of sway; He’s 80 years old, and often seen above the gritty, deal-making side of politics. He doesn’t feel he owes anyone a thing — and his colleagues know it.

Perhaps the knowledge that he is seen so far above typical politics makes his decisions even harder to swallow.

McCain’s most notable recoil under pressure came at the hands of President Donald Trump. Even after Trump mocked him for being a war hero, saying that he likes “people who weren’t captured,” he still supported him for president in the end.

And by supporting a man willing to make horrible comments about a war hero, he sent a message to Republican voters that he should be taken seriously.

McCain’s public profile, coupled with his presidential bid in 2008, has made him one of the highest-profile Republicans in the country, and made his actions carry a lot of sway with Republican voters.

I believe he has misused this sway to a massive degree.

With his love and respect for the U.S. military, I believe he could be a force of good for veterans in the country, who are suffering from high rates of substance abuse due to PTSD and excessive opioid prescriptions provided to combat injuries sustained in combat, receive poor health benefits and care from VA hospitals and who make up 11 percent of the U.S. homeless population — that adds up to almost 40,000 homeless veterans.

The respect he carries could make him a driving force for veteran care in the country, but I believe he could best accomplish this doing what he did to make his name in politics: being a respectful contrarian — this time, his target would be his fellow Republicans, rather than the Obama Administration.

In what are likely his final days in office, I believe that McCain can become a great force of good in this country. It just requires him to step away from politics and to truly use his voice for good.

Nicholas Hunter is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected].