Friday, November 09, 2012

Queens of Denial; Kings of Polarization


The election is over.  And the Democratic Party has won.   

I realize that the GOP talking points would explain things differently.  I realize that they are characterizing the election as a draw – the “people’s house” went to the GOP and the Presidency/Senate went to the Dems.  A tie, right?

Not exactly.  In the aggregate, more Americans voted to elect a Democrat to the House than a Republican.   The GOP kept their majority in the House only because they were willing and able to gerrymander so many districts in 2010. That will allow them to bottle up a lot of legislation during these next two (or more) years, but it does not allow them legitimately to claim that this week’s election was a draw.  They lost, and they lost big.

They now control only 45% of the Senate.  They lost the majority vote for President for the fifth time in six tries – and by a total of nearly three million votes.  And they lost in the all-important Electoral College by nearly 130 votes.  Given how polarized this country has become, those results can be called a thumping.  The GOP hasn’t thumped the Democrats that badly since the Berlin Wall fell.

It pains me to have to start this first blog post after the election with that sort of partisan message.  I would much rather show some compassion for the side that lost – this is, after all, the Empathic Rationalist.   But folks, this isn’t a normal situation we’re dealing with.  A good bit of our nation is living in denial when it comes to what it means to be an American.  They look at the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and they see traitors who are destroying the fabric of this nation and trying to turn it into just another piece of Euro-trash.    They see the Democratic Party as the vehicle for this evil development, and no Democrat is said to personify this more than Barack Obama.  He may not look European, the argument continues, but he is a European socialist if ever there were one.    Accordingly, they believe, they must fight Obama, the Democrats, and all the “liberals” as long and as hard as it takes in order to return this country to the “traditional Americans” who listen to conservative talk radio and watch Fox News.  

Don’t believe me?   Just think about what happened yesterday, when the Speaker of the House suggested that an election took place, Obama won, and so Obamacare will survive.  Not so fast – by the end of the day, he already had to walk that back, and add that “our goal has been, and will remain, full repeal.”   This is the guy who is considered to be one of the compromisers.  I can only imagine what the hard-liners are saying behind closed doors – you know, in the rooms where they are still talking about all the un-American people who are now voting as Americans  (see, e.g., the “47 percent” ).

Clearly, the GOP deserves some time to digest the bitter pill that they swallowed this week.  They might publicly call it a draw, but they know they lost.  And despite what the polls were saying before the election, their leaders seem to be legitimately shocked by the results.  In their Fox News- created delusion, it wasn’t supposed to go down this way.  Romney was supposed to ride in on the white horse and rid the White House of all the socialists.  And this would unleash an economy that would be the envy of the entire world – or at least those parts of the world not pathologically obsessed with economic redistribution.  

It’s going to take some time for the GOP to acknowledge that their dream didn’t come true.  And that they are stuck with the Democrats largely in charge of Washington.  And that this is a Democratic Party that is finally willing to play brinksmanship and, if necessary, to ride off of that “fiscal cliff.”   

If the GOP remains in denial, then yes, we’ll see some pretty extreme budget-cutting measures.  And if the GOP wants to treat Barack Obama as the President of the United States and meet him more than halfway – since, after all, he did just win the election by an electoral-college landslide – then yes, we’ll see some Democratic concessions to Republican interests.   Either way, though, America will survive.  And hopefully, the only thing that won’t survive is the extent to which the GOP has demonized its rivals these past few years.

We need two viable Parties, folks.  We need a progressive Party, and we need a conservative Party.  We need them to work together a lot, and we need them to respect each other.  I support anything and everything that can make that happen as soon as possible, even if it means exposing in the short run the extremists who are the real evil-doers here.  Believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to seeing some Republican ideas get implemented.  But the GOP must be the ones to extend their hands first.  Such is the price of living in a Democracy and recognizing that you are truly in the minority.

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