In losing, John McCain has fulfilled his fondest wish: revenge on the Republican Party. And he has achieved this revenge in a particularly satisfying way: by subconsciously using the party's own tactics to defeat itself.
According to T. Byram Karasu, a professor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, each person has conscious and unconscious desires, and of the two, "unconscious desires are much more powerful."
A maverick who came from a line of successful father figures can break the mold by courting failure.
McCain's unconscious desire to lose could go back to his father and grandfather, both distinguished Navy admirals. McCain thinks of himself as a maverick, an unorthodox thinker, a dissenter. Dr. Karasu said that the idea of maverick-hood is one that "negates paternal figures and paternal values." A maverick who came from a line of successful father figures can break the mold by courting failure.
Then there's McCain's history as a prisoner at the so-called Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. "Imprisonment has an enormous impact on the identity of an individual," Dr. Karasu said. "Either they identify with the aggressor role or with the victim role," and he acknowledged that at different times a prisoner might waver between these two poles. Over the last eight years, McCain has indeed veered between the two extremes.
In the 2000 primaries, McCain played victim to the savageries of his own party. George Bush's camp orchestrated a fallacious push poll in South Carolina suggesting that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. In order to raise the level of debate, McCain pulled his negative ads, lost South Carolina, and ultimately the primary.
In this election, McCain behaved toward Obama just like the Republican aggressors who shredded him in 2000. McCain hired Tucker Eskew, one of the Bush advisers who set the hated 2000 push poll in motion. Sarah Palin represented the conservative religious bloc that McCain denounced as "agents of intolerance" in 2000.
But subconciously McCain knew a win would vindicate the Republican Party, and as a former victim of its smear campaigns, he couldn't let that happen. He undermined his own credibility by choosing the inexperienced Palin. The campaign further undercut the Palin pick when a campaign aid told the press that she was "going rogue" and a "diva," an admission of contempt for her and, by extension, for the voting bloc she represented.
Dr. Karasu said "there's a greater pleasure in the unconsciousness of revenge - it's more powerful than success." If anything, McCain's loss exemplifies that and plays in to his victim complex. He should be satisfied that his revenge on the Republican Party is perfectly complete.