Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.
—Sen. John McCain, Nov. 4, 2008
In the end, Sen. John McCain gave perhaps his best speech of his campaign in conceding sometime after 11 p.m. last night, immediately encouraging healing the divisions of a long race and pledging to work together with the new president. He quieted supporters who booed the new president, and came off, at long last, as the classy veteran he had been before the Republican National Convention.
In losing, the McCain of old, the honorable statesman, was free once more. It’s weird, but it’s almost like that scene at the end of Return of the Jedi when Luke takes off Darth Vader’s mask and reveals the good man underneath all the harsh exterior. Except for, like, the burning-his-face-in-a-volcano part. And the whiny Anakin-ness of the prequels. And the asthmatic mask. And the choking of the rebel officer. And the always dressed in black like a Morissey fan. And the abject evilness for 30 years. And … well, let’s say we just forget I made this comparison. Move along. Move along. (Though, shit, I wasn’t the only one to think of this comparison, showing that us Star Wars geeks are legion, and I’m not even touching (for now) CNN’s Princess Leia-like hologram.)
Instead, recall that earlier I compared McCain to another venerable senator who tried but fell short of the White House. I meant, and still do mean, the comparison to Henry Clay as a compliment.
It’s odd, but since the Republic Convention in August, we’ve seen an angry, bitter McCain that observers hardly recognized. And this despite, as Christopher Beam noted in two articles on Slate, McCain himself holding back on some attacks (perhaps leaving it to his surrogates, “rogue” or not). As Beam wrote, it almost seemed “there was a hint of repentance about negative campaigning.” Last night’s speech perhaps signals a return to the self-styled Maverick of old, instead of a misdirected candidate and his rogue sidekick.
McCain is still a great hero who merely peaked at the wrong time — removing all other candidates, if you offered me a choice eight years ago between Sen. McCain and then-Gov. George W. Bush, I’d have voted for McCain every day of the week and twice on Tuesday.
McCain’s defeat all but assures that the country will never elect a president from the Silent Generation, the first generation (as defined by Strauss & Howe) that never had its own chief executive. That hardly diminishes the accomplishments of the generation of those born in the middle of the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression and World War II, the generation of Martin Luther King Jr., Sandra Day O’Connor, Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Elvis Presley, George Carlin, Paul Newman, and Sen. John S. McCain. Read the rest of this entry »
The Clinton ego machine rolls on, continuing to try its best to produce the first-ever president from the Silent Generation, represented in the form of the 70-ish John McCain.
The New York Times had a good article on McCain’s generation a few Mondays ago. The article correctly echoes the research Strauss and Howe wrote about in their Generations book more than a decade ago when they, too, mentioned that the Silents have never had one of their own elected as president (the Times notes it as the generation born in the 1930s).
Born in and around the Great Depression, too young to fight in World War II, then raised and coming of age in the prosperous and mostly conforming 1950s, “smothered” and over-protected by their parents and society at large.
Re-reading that, I think of my son. Born in a recession in an era of protecting children (perhaps over-protecting, as witnessed by the vitriol over New York Sun columnist (and NYC-living) Lenore Skenazy‘s decision to let her 9-year-old son ride the subway alone), with perhaps a longer-term war underway and hopefully brighter economic days on the far side of all this (sometime around 2019, perhaps).