Last night, John McCain delivered a concession speech. It was duly conciliatory, but make no mistake: This speech was tinged with the magnanimity that only defeat provokes. Whether tarring a scholar as a terrorist or impugning the patriotism and allegiance of his opponent, John McCain’s campaign repeatedly exploited the divisive culture war politics that have impeded progress in the past. Whatever sway his advisers might have had, John McCain was ultimately responsible for the reprehensible ad hominem campaign he ran.
While it’s true that McCain believed in the superiority of his candidacy and that the perfect is the enemy of the good, the consequences of his campaign are made no less tangible by his concession. John McCain once stood — whatever his motivation — as an advocate of climate change reform and in opposition to the inequality George Bush’s tax cuts engendered, but as John McCain prostituted himself to the base elements of the Republican party he abandoned his cap-and-trade policy and embraced an economic agenda that has failed so many. And while Bill Ayers will soon be a relic of campaign trivia, many of the campaign’s smears won’t simply fade with the election’s end. John McCain has built genuine opposition to causes for which he had once proudly championed. The electoral mandate granted to Barack Obama is impressive, but rest assured, true reform will be made more difficult by the irresponsible venality of John McCain’s ambition. No mea culpa will change this.