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Widows' Succession? No Thanks.

Widows' Succession? No Thanks.

This is not a post about Sen. John McCain. It’s about nepotism.

But it’s important to say this first: I admired John McCain. 

While he liked to joke that he was a hard-partying hell-raiser when he was young - and no doubt that was true - he was also a man driven by a profound love of country. The harrowing story of McCain’s military service and imprisonment is part of our American tapestry. He will live on in history books as an American hero. 

Generations of Americans will learn of McCain’s years as a POW and will ask themselves if they could endure what he did. Most will have to admit they could not.

I met John McCain once in Richmond and found him charming. I eagerly voted for him when I had a chance, in primaries and for president, in 2008. 

I didn’t always agree with him. He wasn’t always right. But I - and millions of Americans - will miss his wit, his self-deprecating humor and his stubborn independence. His death Saturday, while not unexpected, was a blow. McCain seemed like a man who would go on forever.

This, however, is about what comes next. Who will take McCain’s place in the U.S. Senate.

The deadline for a 2018 special election has passed in Arizona, which means the governor will appoint a successor to serve until 2020. Gov. Doug Ducey has said he will make no announcement until after McCain’s interment. Clearly he's deciding this week.

Already there are rumors - fueled in part by a speculative piece in The New York Times - that McCain's widow, Cindy McCain, is being considered. 

I hope not.

Not because Mrs. McCain wouldn’t be a capable senator. But because the “tradition” of appointing widows to fill seats that their late husbands were elected to is paternalistic, dynastic and reeks of nepotism.

"Widows’ succession" is a quaint holdover from a different time, when women were considered simple extensions of their husbands, political placeholders who could be easily managed from behind the scenes. Let the little lady step in. She won’t make any trouble. 

Worse, appointing a spouse to replace a deceased elected official signals the beginnings of yet another tedious political dynasty. While some seem to worship the Kennedys, the Clintons and the Bushes as American royalty, many of us recoil at the notion that elected offices are something that pass along hereditary lines.

There are 7 million people in Arizona. Surely Ducey can find a qualified replacement not named McCain.

This wasn’t John McCain’s Senate seat just as it wasn't Barry Goldwater's before him. It belongs to the people of Arizona.

When a pilot dies, no one calls his or her spouse to take over the controls. When a football coach keels over, no one expects his wife to pick up the whistle and run onto the field. Shoot, if Tom Brady goes down Bill Belichick doesn't signal for Gisele to come in for him.

Similarly, when a senator dies, the spouse should not head to Washington. 

Sadly, John McCain is gone. Whoever replaces him will live in the legendary man’s shadow.

That shouldn’t be his widow.

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