Political arena needs more people like John McCain

As August turns to September, those seeking or hoping to retain political office invariably ratchet up the attacks on their opponents, often by releasing campaign ads or making statements to the media that are carefully crafted so you only hear what they want you to hear, intentionally misleading you.

In fact, if you believed everything you saw in these ads and what campaigns told you, then everyone running for office is a threat to the existence of America.

The very thing our political discourse needs is precisely what it lost this past weekend when Sen. John McCain passed away after a battle with brain cancer.

McCain was a striking example of how one can be resolute in standing up for what he or she believes without resorting to the vitriol we so often see today.

Perhaps most famously, when McCain was seeking the presidency in 2008 as the Republican nominee, he reassured people at his events who expressed concern that his opponent, Barack Obama, was “Arab” or somehow “associated with terrorists.”

McCain stopped these people and told them that Obama was a “good family man” and an American with whom he had disagreements.

How many times since then have you seen someone defend their political opponent from unjustified attacks and accusations?

That’s what we thought.

It would have been very easy for McCain to stoke the ignorant fears of some that Obama would turn the country into one run under Sharia law (because of the mistaken belief that Obama was Muslim) or that the election of a black man would spell the end of this country. In fact, McCain would have likely gained votes in an election he eventually lost by doing it.

But it wouldn’t have been the right way to go about things, so he didn’t go about things that way.

When McCain’s passing became public, kind words and tributes poured in from all over the country and from both sides of the aisle. He was the type of man people could respect, even if they rarely saw eye to eye.

But ultimately, words are just that — words. McCain was a man more about actions.

It was with his actions that he developed the reputation of being a “maverick” who wasn’t afraid to disagree with anyone, even in his own party, even right up to the end when he cast the unlikely deciding vote that spared Obama’s signature health care law from repeal because he didn’t believe Republicans were going about the repeal in the correct way.

To McCain, the end never justified the means.

For that reason, we feel as though a fitting tribute to McCain by so many who have expressed admiration for him since his passing would be to conduct themselves as McCain did when seeking office. That means not resorting to fear tactics, personal attacks or thinly-veiled bigotry to try to benefit from people’s fears. That means sticking to the issues and remaining respectful of your opponent always while at the same time passionately making your case for why you feel your point of view is correct.

It may not have ever brought McCain the presidency, but it did allow him to become a stalwart in the Senate, a fixture in the Republican Party and an icon in Arizona.

We, like so many others, are sad at the loss of John McCain. But it’s the way he went about his business that we’ll miss most.

We just hope respectfulness in our nation’s politics didn’t die with him.