The American patriot and the gracious war hero re-emerged Tuesday, oddly in defeat. Senator John McCain gave a moving concession speech, acknowledging Obama’s victory relatively early on election night. He admitted that it was a long and difficult campaign, but that Obama had managed to inspire the hope of so many millions of Americans. And added “I deeply admire and commend him.” Then he sensitively went on to realize this was an historic election, one that was of special significant to African Americans. It proved to McCain that this America that he loves is indeed a land of promise. He reminded Americans, many so historically illiterate, of the outrage that greeted President Theodore Roosevelt when he invited black educator Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. Now an African American will live with his family there.
“Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country.” He noted the sad death of Obama’s grandmother the previous night, and urged all Americans to support the new president, to give our children and grandchildren a better country than we inherited.
He acknowledged that he made mistakes in the campaign and thanked his supporters. But he insisted on citing Governor Sarah Palin who ended up costing him so many votes at the end. She looked clueless as the old warrior talked on, and then he concluded:
I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president…Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history. God bless America.
It was the best speech he gave in the campaign, and reminded many people why they first admired McCain. He is the sort of man you hope you son will grow up to be, not like you, but loyal, patriotic, dedicated, altruistic, persistent, and a maverick indeed.
Voting studies will probably show that McCain lost more votes because of his age than Obama lost because of his race. And the age question was linked up with the weirdness of Palin. Only the fundamentalist far right of the party was pleased with her; her inexperience and her general ignorance was her undoing, although one must say that Katie Couric and Saturday Night Live surely helped push her over the ledge. McCain should have nominated somebody from Ohio or Florida to run with him, but he has himself a strange streak in him. Also he was in the impossible position of trying to keep the Bushites happy and telling Americans that he understood that the incumbent was a total failure. The Bush legacy was compounded by the collapses on Wall Street. The failures of the investing class has reconstituted the party of FDR. The middle class got scared in October, and blamed it on the Republicans. That is the problem with being the party in power. The themes of the McCain campaign kept on changing; even Palin would not figure out what was in and what was out. He ended up denouncing socialism, but what Americans saw was socialism for the rich, and the ravages of capitalism for the poor and the retired. He had to backtrack on his noble support for immigration reform, so the Hispanics unexpectedly voted for an African American. The Catholic bishops, sounding like the Republican National Committee lately, told Catholics they must exercise their own judgments on voting, but then listed five issues that the Democratic nominee was wrong on. Somehow the deaths in war and the poverty of so many American children was deemed not important enough to make the high echelon for determining votes. But Catholics, especially those with education, voted for a better tomorrow and for the audacity of hope.
Thus in the end, McCain had few real allies, except fear of the unknown Obama. And this week, hope triumphed over fear.