According to Dictionary.com, maverick is defined as “a lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates.” Ostensibly, the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was nicknamed “The Maverick” throughout his lengthy political career by his Democratic and Republican colleagues, the mainstream press, and establishment figures.
If major newspapers, neoconservative opinion makers, and 70-year-old politicians are referring to McCain as a maverick because he was one of the top Republicans to side with former President Barack Obama on key issues, then you know there is very little intellectual diversity in the nation’s capital.
With his unfortunate and tragic death in the spotlight, the important question is: Why?
A Conservative Record?
As legendary commentator William F. Buckley would say, Senator McCain may have been “conservative,” but he wasn’t “a conservative.” In other words, McCain may have leaned towards conservative positions, but he was never embedded in the philosophical ideas of U.S. conservatism.
His political record was comparable to that of most elected officials sitting in the House or Senate. You could take any random name from the congressional rolodex and contrast their record with his and you would never notice the difference. McCain was the personification of statism, perpetuating the deadly and costly welfare-warfare state.
The distinguished senator from Arizona routinely voted for unbalanced budgets, spying on American citizens, a whole host of market intervention policies, and other big government initiatives.
Of course, McCain, like his doppelganger Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will be most remembered for his hawkish foreign policy. Senator McCain never saw a war, a regime change, or a military-led intervention he didn’t like, no matter how asinine. While most people understood the errors of the Iraq War, it took McCain 15 years to finally concede that it was a mistake. Where was that kind of dissent in 2003 before politicians sent thousands to their deaths?
His rhetoric was just as damaging as his voting patterns. Who could forget his “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” song from the 2008 presidential campaign? During that year’s Republican primaries, he claimed that a non-interventionist foreign policy facilitated the rise of Adolf Hitler. One of his greatest hits recently occurred when he accused Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) of being a Russian agent for President Vladimir Putin for objecting to U.S. support for Montenegro joining NATO.
In 30 years, we are not going to say, “Gee, I wonder what John McCain would have thought on this issue.” Despite spending more than three decades in Washington, succeeding a true maverick by the name of Barry Goldwater in the Senate, McCain did not offer any new ideas to political discourse.
A maverick? Hardly. A man of the state? Definitely.
A True Maverick Definition
In today’s world, we are defining a maverick as someone who will espouse talking points you’d find in government-approved high school textbooks and wield the power of the state with decades-old failed policies. So, what then is a genuine maverick? It’s someone who spouts unpopular truths and views that contradict statist orthodoxy.
There have been plenty of modern-day mavericks on both sides of the political aisle over the years who have challenged the system.
Former Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) lambasted the military-industrial complex, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) took on the Federal Reserve System, Senator Mike Gravel (D-AL) broke with his party and advocated abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot was successful in calling out the two-party system and arriving to the debates as the third man.
Unlike other politicians who did not serve in the military and had zero reservations for sending men and women to their graves in senseless foreign adventures, McCain did serve – it’s unfortunate that he never saw a conflict where he didn’t want to put boots on the ground. Aside from that difference, McCain toed the establishment line, rarely shifted away from the Swamp’s allowable opinions, and never proposed an original policy prescription that was the anthesis to everything Washington represents – warfare and welfare.
How can you correctly describe McCain? That’s simple. He was the original author of Everyone I Don’t Like is an Agent for Vladimir Putin.