Not Gloating Yet

“A succession of potential Republican nominees -– Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich –- were bright, attractive, and have compelling narratives. Instead, Republican voters (or, at least, enough of them) bought into this Democratic mantra that only a liberal stand-for-nothing Republican can win a presidential election.”

-Michael Hammond, on why the Republicans lost the election.

A lot of my friends are getting off on the apparent self-defenestration of the Republican party. I understand the impulse. It’s not like we women/gays/young people/blacks/Latinos/rape victims/Sesame Street lovers don’t have a few “legitimate” grievances. To be perfectly honest, I’m enormously heartened that a Republican president won’t be able to take credit for the inevitable financial recovery coming our way. Or appoint Supreme Court justices. I’m glad that Obamacare, however, imperfect, has a fighting chance of starting something transformative in our health care system. I’m also pleased to see the ‘rape philosopher’ crowd out looking for new work.

And yet… I personally think it’s a disaster for the whole country that the Republican party is such a disgrace.  We desperately need two robust parties. We need a market place of ideas. We need to have serious debate about serious issues. Some of my younger friends don’t realize what a dreary, boggy mess Democratic orthodoxy had become in the 1970s. The Democratic party had been running on ideology for a long time and was really in a similar place (though not as extreme, in my partisan view) as the Republican party has found itself today. Which is to say: the ideology was not tracking with reality. Gas lines. Soaring crime rates. Inflation. I was only a teenager then but I remember the whole country was stagnant and unappealing. (Just watch Argo for a refresher.) And just like now, Americans got fed up. Cue Reagan. Of course, people conveniently forget that Reagan’s more, shall we say, experimental ideas never saw the light of day because they were heavily muted by the liberal congressional hand he was dealt. (My guess is the unvarnished Reagan revolution wouldn’t have screamed out for a second term.) But in any event, you could see where the whole “Morning in America” enthusiasm came from in the early ‘80s, even if some of us thought the shining city on the hill was built on a heap of sand.

But my point is that by the time Clinton came along, with his triangulation and his sweeping welfare reform (which didn’t result in the wholesale catastrophe that bleeding hearts like myself had predicted, by the way – far from it), most people had had enough extremism and were comfortable with a little less of the ‘vision thing.’ Governing from the center seemed to work pretty well for a while. Some of our dreams were dashed, sure, but at least we got a hefty budget surplus out of it.

It really comes down to this: our country is not a one party dictatorship, for the love of god! We’re not a banana republic. We need two sides – at least two sides, a few more would be welcome. We need two equally legitimate, but competing, views of goverment’s role in society in order to reach the best solutions to our intractable problems.

I’m not suggesting the Dems have it all locked up, but propping up rape apologists and putting your weight behind distractions like getting rid of Big Bird are generally not democracy-enhancing strategies.

When one party opts out of reality by flipping off half our citizenry; by denying climate change and the central role that immigrant labor plays in our economy; by demonizing an approach to health care reform that originated decades ago from its own party; by asserting that our mid-western, Church-going, surprisingly war-mongerish president is in fact a pacifist Muslim socialist; by reflexively picking fights on ancient social issues with a zero percent chance of resolution by a presidential election; by insisting that our tax rates for the one percent are usurious; by pretending the jury is still out on evolution; by claiming that the proper role of the federal government is the policing of people’s bedrooms, not the oversight of a multi-billion dollar, multi-state natural disaster…  if this is what a once-great party has to offer, we really are in deep shit.

We need to wrestle together, in good faith, with real problems and real solutions. Democrats need a strong Republican party. All Americans do.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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5 Responses to Not Gloating Yet

  1. Peter says:

    As much as I’d imagined writing at length in response to your essay, I can only reply: “Erika, you are absolutely right!” Yours was a very persuasive and heartfelt plea for multi-party governance. Thank you for so thoughtful a post-election piece.

  2. Peter M. (another Peter) says:

    Hmm, I don’t know how I feel about another Peter commenting on this weblog. But I suppose I can make peace with the idea for now 🙂

    I agree though. I felt there were much needed discussions on civil liberties, our environment, the militarization of our police force, potential options to deal with Iran other than wait-and-see and military action, or how to ensure that healthcare could be cost effective and supplying more doctors, while reducing unnecessary procedures. Dentistry was never even touched, even though it remains ridiculously expensive. A friend of mine had 4 teeth knocked out tripping and falling; the cost for repair is $4000. She works part time retail. How do you get a “real job” with 4 of your front teeth missing?

    But no, instead we’re having hearings on Benghazi and how the President may have covered it up even though when they got the appropriate information they found out the ambassador was assassinated. We’re talking about how Sandra Fluke wants other people to pay for her to have sex (which isn’t at all what she said, and frankly I’d rather pay for birth control than more welfare benefits and schools because those are much more expensive). Ron Paul was essentially kicked out of the Republican convention, even though he brought up some points worth discussing.

    I’m hoping this loss will move the party forward, except for just a reflexive “Whoops, we should’ve reached out to Hispanics” mindset. We’ll see in the coming months and years.

  3. charlesberry101152 says:

    Erica,You go girl. I could not have said it better. Thanks for seeing what is really going on. The Republican Party because of its racism, alienated Blacks, Hispanics, women voters, and gays. These are the people who are no longer tolerant of hate in this country. When are all Americans are going to live in harmony. I heard on television, and read from the newspapers, that racism has risen since we elected and re-elected our first black president, racing has grown even though some people don’t realize they are racist. Great article. You hit the nail right on the head.

  4. I’m not gloating, but I’m sure feeling relieved. I’m really sad, and a little scared, about what our two party system has become. I’d like to see the Republican party reign in some of the extreme voices that I don’t think really represent the party at all, and I’d like it even better if there was a strong 3rd party, just to keep everybody on their best behavior.

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