For a long time, this word was closely associated with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). And for a long time it served him well, helping the Arizona senator to establish a reputation among media types for independence in spite of his reliably Republican voting record and staunchly conservative worldview. During the 2008 election, it was seemingly impossible for a member of the political press to write/say/tweet anything about McCain or his candidacy without including the word “maverick” or some variation thereof: mavericky, maverickishness, maverickalicious, etc.
And McCain himself eagerly embraced the sobriquet, telling the Republican National Convention as he accepted their nomination for the presidency: “You well know I've been called a maverick, someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it's meant as a compliment; sometimes it's not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you.”
Well, it turns out everyone was wrong. McCain is no “maverick” and he never was one. He said so himself in an interview with Newsweek:
Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. “Maverick” is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. “I never considered myself a maverick,” he told me. “I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities.”
So... to all my friends in the media, the next time you feel that familiar urge to tack a superfluous “maverick” into your reports on John McCain, please remember that JOHN MCCAIN HIMSELF says he is not now, nor has he ever been, a “maverick.”
And furthermore, wh--wait a minute... Ditching the political identity you've carefully cultivated over several decades as a politically expedient move to appeal to home-state conservatives who might be tempted to vote for your right-wing challenger in the upcoming Republican primary?
What a “maverick” thing to do...