For the first time in my life, I am officially undecided about the presidential election. Part of me still hopes for a late-entry independent run from someone who believes in limited federal government and low taxes. But short of that happening, I continue to ponder what I am going to do this fall.
If I touch the screen (pull the lever, dangle my chad) for Senator John McCain, it will be for a simple reason that can summed up in one word - civility.
For years politicians have talked about "politics as usual" and "changing the tone of politics." And while the Clintons and the Bushes used these phrases, partisanism grew deeper and the tone of political conversation got shriller. And the outrageous claims made about political opponents moved to the ridiculous. Democrats are not aiding and abetting the enemy when they question the President's war strategy. And Republicans do not want poor children to starve or die when they oppose the expansion of government programs. The things that get said these days are simply unbelievable.
And then there is John McCain. He, along with Joe Lieberman, is the most purple politician of our generation. When he campaigned, President Bush talked about being a uniter not a divider. Senator Obama speaks the same way about redrawing the electoral map by bringing people together. But neither have done it. For a multitude of reasons -many of them outside of his control - President Bush will leave a deeply divided Washington. And Senator Obama has the most consistently liberal voting record in the Senate.
But John McCain ... John McCain is actually a bipartisan, annoyingly so at times. I am deeply opposed to Campaign Finance Reform, but it was a truly bipartisan effort. I am deeply opposed to the Immigration Bill, but it was a truly bipartisan effort. I am deeply opposed to the Gang of 14, but it was a truly bipartisan effort. The last two decades have been characterized by sharply divided Congresses, but on the rare occasion of a compromise, you will find John McCain.
Because of his role as Republican Maverick, McCain has gotten to know and worked with Democrats more effectively than any other Republican. And as a result, he seems to genuinely respect them. Because of this, his speeches are full of compliments for his opponents. He quickly distances himself from those who use extreme rhetoric about his political foes. He doesn't take the political potshots at his opponents of which many of us are weary.
If America is going to have a renaissance of civility in her politics, it seems to me that a person like John McCain can help to usher it in. And that will be the reason I vote for him - if I vote for him.