John McCain: Humbly Determined

It was the Republican primary season of 2007 and Mitt Romney was my candidate for the nomination. I knew our nation was headed towards a recession and I wanted a candidate who could make a strong argument for conservative economic principles. I also knew, as soon as he announced his candidacy, that Barack Obama was going to be the nominee for the Democrats (note here how wise I am). The American people had fatigue from George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, it was my assumption that if the Republican party hoped to maintain the White House we were going to have to run away from foreign policy and put forward a strong economic agenda. I thought (and still do) that Romney was the best candidate to make the economic argument.

I should also note that in 2007 I was an insufferable jerk. I was a young Republican in my early twenties and I was confident in Romney. I remember rolling my eyes at Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson during the debates (I still roll my eyes at Huckabee. I may have been a jerk, but I wasn’t wrong). I remember debating friends who supported Sam Brownback and Ron Paul. I had acquaintances who supported almost everybody in that primary, but one name never came up: John McCain.

To this day, when I think of John McCain, one memory of mine always sticks out. One night, I believe in early November of 2007, I was watching TV when suddenly came a breaking news bulletin, “MCCAIN OUT OF MONEY! CAMPAIGN IN DISARRAY!” This headline was then accompanied by footage of McCain dragging his own luggage through an airport, apparently too cash strapped to hire a staffer to carry it for him. “Good.” I remember thinking to myself, “At least he’s out of the way.”

I was wrong.

McCain went on to win New Hampshire and eventually the nomination. Of course, I was livid. I didn’t think McCain had a chance at beating Obama. I grumbled all the way through 2008 but I reluctantly voted for McCain that November. My attitude towards McCain back then, to this day, is one of my greatest regrets.

Last Saturday, John McCain passed away after fighting brain cancer for nearly a year. McCain was a hero, a leader, a light in the senate, and the embodiment of a patriot. When I think of John McCain, I think of how he fought with a quite dignity and how he lived with astonishing strength and character. To this day, when I think of John McCain, I always remember that video of him stubbornly dragging his bags through an airport humbly determined to go on.

Eventually, Romney did get that chance at the White House (we’ll win it next time, Mitt) and eventually I did grow up. A few years ago I moved to Arizona and I was lucky enough to vote for John McCain in his last race for the senate and this time I didn’t do it reluctantly.  I was proud. He was the best among us, and we are less now without him.

-J.A. Callaway