Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain's Acceptance Speech Negates Itself

In the end, all McCain has is his story. It was funereal and elegiac at best, but otherwise left unanswered all questions regarding how he'd govern or what's next for the country. It was all about looking back to the past.

McCain's speech concluded with a recitation of his war experience which he wove beautifully into a narrative of spiritual growth. He spoke not as someone embarking on a journey, but as someone whose journey had come to an end. His revelation that he cannot stand alone, that he cannot be the smirking, carefree maverick he was, that he is part of something larger than himself is both a perfect summation of the spiritual wounds of the Vietnam as well as a gentle step away from his own candidacy. His story tells us that his candidacy has been one more step in a journey to resolve the pain of the past, one shared by many veterans, and transform once and for all into the future tense of joy. Like an Ahab, the veteran is someone who no matter where he goes or what he does cannot accept the pain inflicted on him and his fellows by the whale of war. The last 40 years of American politics has been an acting out of that struggle without healing and without resolution. McCain spoke tonight as someone who had found resolution through his career of service, and while he cannot be the one to lead them, offers it as a path to his fellow Republicans and Conservatives.

For McCain to carry forward as the presidential candidate, or, even as president will be to continually revisit the pain of the past, and continually reenact the damage of those wounds in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran, in Georgia, just as any wounded soul returns to the familiarity of his own fall from grace.

For Palin to step up as his running mate will be to continually re-fight the culture wars of the 80s and 90s.

The Republicans are a party and a people doomed by the past, to repeat it and reenact it. There is no hope for change, or resolution in the heart of someone who cannot see that his own story has come to an end. McCain has had his say. He's told his story, and offered nothing in the way of a future. He should now step aside and make way for the next generation, and for Barack Obama.