Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lessons from the election

For Liberals:
You didn't win. President Obama is not a liberal--he's a moderate (except by the standards of right wing ideologues). The House remains firmly in extremely conservative hands. The Senate only retains a slim Democratic majority--not enough to overcome the filibusters the Republicans have shown themselves willing to use at the drop of a hat. And our Constitution gives conservatives more electoral power overall than liberals, due to the nature of the Senate and the Electoral College.

So you can't get what you want nationally. You can get part of what you want, but only by compromising with a powerful faction of angry, embattled, aging white voters who literally hate our President, who believe that compromise is immoral, and who get nearly all their political information from the various organs of the GOP Ministry of Propaganda.

Meaning that many of the things that you accept as facts--they don't. So you don't even have a common basis for discussion with them, much less agreement. And the President has proven himself to be remarkably poor at communicating about his policies with America.

This problem was compounded by the fact that according to nonpartisan factchecking organizations, the President and his allies lied and dissembled a lot during the campaign. The other side did more, but that doesn't justify the lying the Democrats did.

The President's victory last night didn't change any of this. So America's Other Half that Romney so disdained have their work cut out for them. Doing the Victory Dance right now would be a mistake.

For Conservatives:
You should be grateful that you lost the run for the presidency, and lost it outside any margin for error. As conservatives, you want stability. A disputed election full of recounts and lawsuits and, worse yet, the Supreme Court picking a winner do not lead to stability.

You lost the election in part because your leaders lied even more than the Democrats did, and your leaders did it so blatantly and outrageously that it backfired. People you lie to who discover you've been lying to them realize that you've been treating them like idiots. Surprise--people don't appreciate that. It betrays a lack of faith in conservative principles. Not to mention the fact that conservative principles include being honest. When you abandon that you abandon conservatism.

And you lost the election in part because your leaders convinced a majority of Americans that the Republican Party is the party of Aging White Men and their Wives. The constant use of racial dogwhistle attacks on the President fooled no one. If you continue this circle-the-wagons Voertrekker mindset, America's demographics will progressively marginalize you. It is not conservative to be racist. Right now you say you're not racist but you walk like racists and talk like racists who are denying their racism nudge nudge wink wink.

Dismissing General Powell's endorsement of Obama as race-based while calling Condoleeza Rice's endorsement of Romney principled was only the latest of these manifestations.

And this hysterical talk about hating government makes you sound like a bunch of anarchists. It's fine to seek more efficient government, and to oppose government employees making more than their private sector counterparts. It's not fine to just keep saying Big Government Bad. America's federal government is nothing like what ran the Soviet Uniion, and equating the two makes you look stupid. Or that you think the people you're trying to persuade are stupid.

But if you look across all the elections that were held yesterday, you didn't lose, even though you didn't win either. 30 of the nation's governors are Republican. The House is solidly controlled by Republicans. The Senate didn't get a filibuster-proof Democratic majority.

This means that you can get most of what you want at the state level in the majority of states. And in Washington it means that the Democrats can't walk over you--and you can't walk over them.

Your choice is stalemate or compromise. Compromise is not immoral by actual conservative standards. It's only immoral by radical ideologues' standards. Moreover, the message America as a whole sent to Washington was a clear mandate to seek compromise.

For Moderates:
One of yours won re-election to the Presidency, though he'll have to work with the embattled right wingers and left wingers in Congress to get anything done.

And moderates tend to have a fuzzy vision in contrast to the clear, hard, bright visions of the extremists of both sides. We have to work extra-hard, consequently, to articulate a centrist vision for the country. We don't just want a compromise between  Left and Right. We want a centrist vision from the President, and it can't stop with inspiring stem-winding speeches. He has to be equally eloquent about the nuts and bolts of implementing that vision.

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