Criticizing Trump was a fairly regular occurrence for Republican politicians during the 2016 presidential race. However, after Election Day unexpectedly went in the GOP's favor, many of the conservative senators, governors, and representatives who once rushed to renounce Trump have since decided to either throw their support behind the new president or keep their concerns out of the public eye. However, Arizona Sen. John McCain has repeatedly denounced Trump, and I believe he is the greatest hope for Republican opposition against the new administration.
McCain's honesty and devotion to his principles rather than his party is a breath of fresh air in a political climate where too many right-wing legislators are turning a blind eye to statements and executive orders that should alarm both sides of the political spectrum. McCain's latest denouncement took aim at Trump's recent attacks on the media. "[The media] is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" the president tweeted late last week. In an interview Sunday on Meet the Press, McCain called out the president's statement as having disturbing implications for democracy. "The first thing that dictators do is shut down the press,” said the senator.
McCain recently released a joint statement with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham opposing Trump's controversial travel ban, reminding the president of the large number of Muslims working alongside the United States to put an end to terrorism. They added:
We fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.
Those who've followed McCain's career won't be surprised to see the senator continuing to set aside partisan politics in favor of values he holds, regardless of whether or not they're popular with his peers in his party.
Before the 2008 presidential election, back when I was 13 and still not familiar with the names of very many senators, I was actually under the impression that the Arizona senator was actually a Democrat. I'd seen him in the documentary Why We Fight soberly weighing the ethics of certain U.S. foreign interventions and touching on the importance of recognizing when the use of military force gets dangerously close to being a tool for imperialism. I later saw him in the film Shut Up and Sing, defending the Dixie Chicks against a radio blacklist after the group came under right-wing fire for criticizing George W. Bush during a concert. I was quite surprised to see him become the Republican nominee to run against Barack Obama.
Of course, I later learned of his conservative stances on abortion, same-sex marriage, and an array of other issues, but even then, I saw him the type of politician who could have a respectable conversation with any opponent. During Trump's run, after his insistence that he was not responsible for his followers' hate speech at rallies, I couldn't help but think of McCain putting a stop to a supporter who once told him she could not trust Obama because he was an "Arab."
While McCain's legacy of being honorable has been put under the microscope many times, it's not difficult to see why he's earned such a reputation in the first place. Republicans, especially seasoned and influential ones like McCain, should use their platforms to speak out on behalf of democracy and freedom. McCain is a perfect example of how they should proceed.