Much has been said about the contrast between the late John McCain – war veteran, bipartisan statesman, noble truth-teller – and a man who seemed way less likely to become president, Donald Trump.
But as the Arizona senator, like Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt, spent his twilight years raging against the coarsening of civic life, he must have been aware that his legacy would include a decision that helped unleash the very forces he came to despise.
Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of McCain unveiling Sarah Palin, a say-anything, gun-toting political neophyte, as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. It was an act of political desperation that left Washington aghast. It delivered a short-term boost in the polls. But it also opened the Pandora’s box of populism.
Looking back at the day in Dayton, Ohio, as the crowd roars while McCain’s face is frozen in rictus, the moment is freighted with portents of a decade in which his beloved Republican party would slip from his grasp. It is a premonition of what many in America and around the world have come to regard as the horror of Trumpism. [Continue reading…]