After Joe Biden’s victory in the American presidential elections, the concession speech John McCain gave after he was defeated by Obama in the 2008 campaign has gone viral. As Biden’s close friend and rival, the Republican senator stood for forty years as the figure of a politician who was faithful to his ideas and, above all, to his country.
His conservatism, so committed to core values in America, was not the ideological brand we get today nor the Manichean kind that squares off before a left that also excludes everyone else and thinks it is in possession of the truth; it was something much closer to traditional conservatism based on loyalty to certain principles.
John Lukács observed that a conservative is patriotic but not nationalistic, he holds high the banner of honour and does not play dirty, he accepts defeat even if he works unflaggingly for victory; he loves mankind even if he knows from his own experience how many flaws and weaknesses there are in men. Under the guise of a maverick McCain exemplified that ideal. He was, so to speak, one of those politicians who go their own way and do not get intimidated because they respect their conscience first and know that the price they must pay for that is courage.
«To serve a truth much greater than oneself» was his byword and it ought to be the same for any honourable life. The love of others confers responsibility, you could say. The love of family (that space where we may be judged but never left behind), of friends, compatriots, adversaries, those who are different from us …draws a picture of the true face of humanity. And a man’s most personal truth.
After his death John McCain has returned to the podium to mark his distance from Donald Trump’s demagoguery, and his example can alert us to a path that does not simply come down to the number of seats occupied by the right, far from it. The sickness of Cainitism is, from all appearances, universal. In his correspondence with José Jiménez Lozano, recently published by Trotta, Américo Castro recalls that «what good there has been in Anglo-Saxon countries is the fruit of service, of service to all, as Mark wrote in his gospel. That’s where you get Social Service, and the civil servant. Spaniards, from the 16th C. onwards, forgot about the gospels and have served their own caste, their own kind, their kin, their friends, and so on».
Those were other times, to be sure. But very little remains of that ideal of service in our tribal age. Little remains of it, I mean, in the political class, in the media and in public discourse. Ideology triumphs and —what’s even worse—cynicism and not principles, which is a way of speaking of another kind of idolatry. If only we had a McCain among us in Spain. One or several. With his mistakes,of course; but also with his courage and his loyalty, with his patriotism and his greatness. And not what we are subjected to now.