It’s no secret John McCain’s passing leaves a tremendous hole in American politics, whether it’s in his willingness to “cross the aisle” to fashion deals, vote his conscience rather than party mandates or put country above party.
The contrast between McCain and President Donald Trump’s behavior and decorum has been striking since before Trump was elected. While more politicians have trended towards the Trump model of governance — essentially win at all costs and the opponents are idiots — the body politic has at least paid lip service to the statesmen of yore, including former Kansas Senator Bob Dole and, now, the late John McCain. Those tributes came in hot and heavy after McCain’s death Saturday, and I’m guessing a significant percentage were actually genuine.
The political problem is McCain was literally the last of a dying breed, whether in Washington or in statehouses across the country, and his death only speeds our rocky, murky path towards a scorched-earth, zero-sum incivility that at some point soon will leave nobody standing.
McCain’s death also comes at an increasingly contentious time in the relationship between journalism and politicians. His loss further charges the atmosphere. It also continues to tilt the playing field so journalists are now losing more and more ground with the public.
The respect McCain had for journalism and its place in American society began being undermined by Trump before he took office, and Trump’s Fake News Phenomenon — especially with stories he does not agree with or are uncomfortable to him — has resonated with a lot of people nationwide.
Reasonable people realize we as journalists are not the enemy — of the country, state, city or any political body in this nation. It is our job to narrate and investigate, to show and tell, and in politics to hold all to the same standard regardless of our political views.
However, this cannot be categorized as a reasonable time anymore when it comes to the media and its role in politics. It didn’t have to be that way, but we as journalists didn’t help our own cause.
We in the media can best honor John McCain, and undercut the Trump Fake News train, by simply doing our job as it was intended. No agendas, no double standards. No stones unturned. Just the facts. That’s what we are charged with finding out. And that’s what you want to know.