President Joe Biden found himself in a position to make a political savvy move this week as the Republican Party fell to even greater depths through dysfunctional wrangling over the shutdown. Biden’s speech in Arizona on Thursday warning of MAGA extremism was needed and powerful, but something he was chosen to announce was particularly meaningful: the creation of the McCain Library.
According to a statement from the McCain Institute, the McCain Library, which will be constructed at Arizona State University (ASU), will be a “multipurpose facility that will provide Arizonans a place to learn, research, develop and work.” ASU’s press release underlined how Biden “thought about how much America missed John right now, and needed John’s foresight and courage.”
On one level, it makes sense for Biden to announce the creation of this library because he and McCain served for decades in the U.S. Senate, becoming friends despite their political differences. Biden even eulogized McCain after he died from the same type of cancer that claimed Beau Biden’s life just a few years prior.
However, while McCain has spent his career as a staunch Republican, Biden is a proud Democrat. Also, it was the Obama-Biden ticket that won the popular and electoral vote by an impressive margin in 2008, preventing McCain and his politics from reaching the White House. One might have expected that a subsequent Republican president would be tapped to make such an announcement.
Of course, Donald Trump held the role that McCain desired, but Trump’s 2015 attack on McCain—”He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”—didn’t exactly endear him to McCain. In 2019, months after McCain’s death, Trump declared that “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.”
Biden and McCain were not only friends but, despite their differing politics, shared the belief that the United States should never fall prey to autocracy. As Biden pointed out, referring to McCain’s war experience, “Very few of us will ever be asked to endure what John McCain endured, but all of us are being asked right now: ‘What will we do to maintain our democracy?’”
With the Republican Party hijacked by MAGA extremists, Biden’s announcement of the McCain Library is helping independents and moderate Republicans connect the dots toward voting for a Democrat in 2024. Indeed, Biden used much of his time drawing a striking contrast between McCain’s GOP legacy and Trumpism, which he accurately called “a threat to the brick-and-mortar of our democratic institutions.”
It should also be noted that the McCain Library will become a reality thanks to funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which is considered Biden’s first major legislative achievement. By contrast, no plans exist to construct a Donald J. Trump Presidential Library. In the meantime, a virtual one, run by the National Archives and Records Administration, ensures that all visitors remember the disgraced buffoon’s two historic impeachments.