McCain's Camelot

by Andy Edwarads | 10/18/00 5:00am

As I stood in a packed room precariously balanced on a chair at nine o'clock on a Tuesday morning, listening to Senator John McCain speak, I had only one question: Why is this man not on the presidential ballot next month? It takes a pretty special individual to get Dartmouth students out of bed this early, and that is what we had in our presence. John McCain, a proud conservative, got so many people -- including myself, who openly disagrees with him on many issues -- to support him and his cause. His campaign and his ideals transcend targeted tax cuts and special funding programs which the nominees for the presidency base their campaigns on. He was campaigning to change politics, and to give people what they wanted -- a government that they could trust was looking after their interests, not only the interests of the rich and well-connected. He bucked the trend of increased political apathy and drew people that never before had an interest in politics to the polls.McCain accomplished this by talking to people honestly and directly. His now famous "Straight Talk Express" bus criss-crossed the primary contested states as he spread his message of reform and public service. He not only inspired voters, but also the media. He was open and frank with them, and by doing so he earned their respect and thus was portrayed in a tremendously positive light by them. The media of course loved the story, an American war hero and trusted senator campaigning to end the abuses in Washington and inspire a generation to "causes greater than self." It is in so many ways similar to the story of John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, for now at least, my generation will not have their JFK in the White House. We will not be told on the third Monday of January to "ask not what your country to do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Instead, we will be told about targeted tax relief and ambiguous foreign policy objectives. We will have a leader who runs away from the tough choices so as not to lose percentage points in the overnight polls.

Perhaps I have a hopelessly romantic view of our political system. Maybe we have nominated Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, because the American people believe they are what is best for the country. I just cannot reconcile myself to that notion. I believe Americans want more from their leaders. They are disappointed with the state of politics and want a change. However, it is the current system which prevents change. The special interest and soft money-driven campaigns against John McCain coupled with his direct defiance of the party establishment ultimately prevented him from receiving the nomination. The current state of the political process is truly depressing and not conducive to democracy. Not only do special interests and the party establishments have undue control over the system, but it is only a self-perpetuating cycle, because the longer they have power the more and more ordinary citizens lose interest in the process and thus the more power the special interests gain.

Needless to say, when the focus of your campaign is fighting against current political practices you are going to be met with some opposition by special interests and the party establishments who want to maintain the status quo which gives them their undue power and influence. McCain's concept of redefining the financing of political campaigns would revolutionize politics as a whole, not just the elections. Without the huge dollars of special interest, our politicians would be more accountable to the people and legislation would be based more on our wants and needs. Such reform would reduce grid-lock and wasteful spending, because our leaders would have to run on their record of what they had accomplished for the nation and the people -- not on the dollars of large corporate and special interest contributions.

Senator McCain challenged the system and challenged his own party. As a result, he lost the primary race and will not be the next president of the United States. But his run did prove that the people want a different type of politics. A politics that equally represents all people of this country and inspires its citizens to serve it. He brought credibility back into the political arena. Finally, he stood by his beliefs, willing to lose because of them, something neither George Bush nor Al Gore would do.

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