“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, RedState.com 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.