John McCain says it's "time to wake up" in anti-Trump speech
John McCain has long been a palatable anti-Trump figure for centrists and conservatives. Despite failing to defeat Barack Obama in 2008, the longtime US Senator and Vietnam veteran is seen as an icon of norms, decorum and standard political behavior. His conflict with Trump is deeply personal, as the President has previously criticized his record in Vietnam ("I like people who weren't captured") and McCain said n 2016 that he would not vote for Trump at all.
Speaking to the Naval Academy this Monday, McCain had plenty of criticism to level against President Trump.
“It’s time to wake up,” said McCain. “I believe in America. We’re capable of better. I’ve seen it. We’re hopeful, compassionate people.”
His next statements were all direct repudiations of Trump's beliefs and style as a leader:
“We have to fight against propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories. We have to fight isolationism, protectionism and nativism. We have to defeat those who would worsen our divisions. We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on earth by tearing down walls, not building them.”
He believed in this so much that he posted it on Twitter as an image:
By condemning conspiracy theories, McCain is attacking the Trump administration's style of deflection and 'alternative facts', as well as the propaganda of perpetually blaming others for your own actions. However, the next sentence is somewhat strange, and reveals McCain's, and his entire political project's, short-sightedness.
"We have to fight isolationism, protectionism and nativism."
It's a curious sentence, because it reveals virtually everything you need to know about the political center and the conventional political right. Nativism, or a preference for people born inside a country rather than immigrants, is conflated with protectionism and isolationism. Racism is being conflated with two other factors which have nothing to do with racism.
Protectionism was also Bernie Sanders' policy, and is nothing but opposition to the kind of free trade conducted by multinational corporations, to the detriment of American workers. Being opposed to free trade is not anti-American, and it is absurd to liken it to nativism.
McCain's stance on isolationism is even worse. 'Isolationism' is an absence from global affairs, but obviously the US, which is an empire, would never be isolationist. 'Isolationism' is used by McCain to condemn anyone who opposes US military intervention and influence. The fact that he likens nativism to being anti-war tells you that McCain really does not have any nuance toward politics whatsoever.
Trump is a blowhard, but that doesn't mean that everyone who criticizes him is capable of putting out good ideas. There is a reason why he won the Republican Primary: many, many Republicans are completely out of juice and have nothing to offer.
Why did McCain lose? Romney? There are real deficits and emptiness in the Republican platform, and a desire to return to the 'good old days' before Trump is just shallow as a political impulse. As long as people like McCain view nativism, protectionism and being isolationist as the same anti-American impulse, the Trumps of the world will steamroll him. We need a better class of thinkers.