The number one story of 2018 is the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
It's not the wall. Not the government shutdown. Not the Robert Mueller investigation.
It's nothing done or said or tweeted by President Donald Trump.
It's the loss of Sen. McCain.
When the senator ran for re-election in 2016, he said it would be his last term. And in spite of taking some knocks from his own party, he won, making him one of the rarest and most valuable politicians any nation could have.
A powerful, truly independent voice.
Or, as he wrote in his last book, "The Restless Wave:" “I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry.”
He was pretty good at that already.
But with no election worries, with a term lasting until 2022, and with the clout he had in the Senate, McCain, as a Republican foil for Trump, would have been invaluable. Which makes his loss incalculable.
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In the tug of war for the soul of the Republican party, McCain was the strong man at the other end of the rope, pulling against Trump and his supporters. When McCain lost his grip there was no one with his “country above party” values and his self-reliant spirit to pick up the line.
Democrats don't have the same weight
Members of his own party fear Trump.
All the bluster and tough talk that Republican stalwarts aimed at Trump during the campaign has long since dissipated into whimpering, submissive obedience.
Democrats can criticize the president, but it will never have the weight of a politician from the same party.
That was McCain.
Like when he said in a speech last October:
"To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."
Measuring our loss
He did not specifically name the president but you got the implication. That’s because McCain’s intent wasn’t simply to run down Trump, but to elevate other Republicans.
That was his value.
That’s the measure of his loss.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: No. 1 story of 2018 isn't anything Donald Trump has done. It's the death of John McCain.