Partisan zealotry is making the public discourse toxic in many mature democracies, ones that should have been the beacon for those that are new and yet unsteady in this march.
Partisan zealotry is making the public discourse toxic in many mature democracies, ones that should have been the beacon for those that are new and yet unsteady in this march. The UK, the US, India, Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands—the list, every day, threatens to grow longer. The US, in particular, is witnessing the most violent churn, with the Donald Trump administration carving deeper divide. Against such a backdrop, at former US senator John McCain’s funeral, two past presidents—both McCain’s rivals and representing two ideologies that compete in the American mainstream—reaffirmed the idea of the US being larger than partisan and ideological differences. McCain’s political differences with Barack Obama, to whom he lost the presidency in 2008, and with George W. Bush, to whom he lost the Republican Party nomination in 2000, were well-known—partly because the war veteran had delivered his caustic criticism very publicly. But McCain also recognised the harm that Trump, his party’s candidate in the 2016 elections and eventual president, was doing to the US with his deeply divisive rhetoric and undermining of American institutions. McCain thus invited Bush and Obama to deliver eulogies for him, in a final act to remind the US, and show the Trump administration, that the American democracy straddles many differences, and yet rises past them.
The two former presidents didn’t fail. Bush invoked McCain’s championing of “courage and decency … to stand guard against extremism”. Obama, who spoke of manufactured outrage that marks Trump’s MAGA politics, said McCain understood that “the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy” would cause democracy to fail. Perhaps, leaders globally would serve their nations better if they pay heed to what McCain, Obama and Bush have said, in words and deed.