Sunday, November 9, 2008


Of all the many hopes I have for this incoming Administration, the most desperate, driving hope I have is for a new understanding of what it means to be a liberal.

I've spent a lot of time this cycle bitching to myself and others about how I hope this serves as a realignment election, during which the wheat can be separated from the chaff. Quite simply, I hope that both major parties, but especially the Democrats, can shake out the crazier groups that have latched onto their fringe, and get back to a real understanding of the body politic. I believe I might have gotten my wish, though so soon after the election, it's hard to definitively say. The Republicans are not dumb. The Republican Revolution of 1992 was so simple and brilliant that it got someone who presents as poorly as George W. Bush into office...twice. Like him or not, you have to concede that he is a problematic public figure, and I would argue not even the strongest candidate available to the Republican Party. The Gingrich-led Revolution involved a lot of angling and set up, but most importantly, it drew a line in the sand...if you are a Republican, this is your stump speech and this is your primary concern. Sure, take care of your special interests and your constituency, but if you want access to our support, this is your line. Coherent policy - there are kids in grade school who could come up with this, but the efficacy with which the Republicans organized the endeavor and enforced it is really to be marvelled at. It's kept them competitive and in power ever since.

The Democrats on the other hand, have been...gross. It's really surprising, since Clinton was such a thrilling political figure in general and managed to gather such enormous public support, that the Republicans would be so effective in uniting while the Democrats would spend their time acting like that one kind of dumb kid on a Little League team, spinning around in right field and looking at the sky. Of course, Gingrich's charisma and power are not to be scoffed at, either, but Clinton galvanized the party in a way it hadn't been in years as well. Basically since the Clinton impeachment trials, the Democrats, lead by the DNC, have devolved into a morasse of disparate, squabbling interest groups, without any kind of coherent main line or solid directorship. This is the obvious pratfall of billing yourself as the party of the people - it's easy for the ideal of acceptance to wind up leaving the back door to all kinds of extremist input, and it's easy for the ideal of pacifism to wind up in complete spinelessness. The past eight-plus years have been so disappointing, particularly for me personally, as the Clinton Administration - so full of energy and optimism - was the dawn of my political conciousness.

I hear on Limbaugh and Reagan and O'Reilly and all the other right-wing media folks, and I hear what they say about liberals...that we want to take your money away, that we want to take your guns away, that we want to let illegal aliens in to steal American jobs, that we want to create a welfare state, that we are afraid to go to war, that we want to turn America into a nanny state. I hear all that shit and I relate to none of it. I watched the election results with my friend Jack, and he at one point said something to the effect of "the average modern liberal isn't a minority on's a 25 year old white kid in a city who works and pays rent."

If there is anything that this election cycle has taught us, it must be that we have to take media reporting with a grain of salt. I spent half the cycle waiting for someone to say Obama ate babies or McCain shot orphans in the face...and this wasn't even something I expected from the candidates, I expected CNN or Fox to drop that shit in there. Neither McCain nor Obama are either as wholly good or as wholly bad as the media made them out to be. The same applies to general political leanings...neither liberals nor conservatives are as good or as evil as the media make them out to be. Hopefully, we can extrapolate what we learned about this particular cycle and the realignment to include the larger picture of how conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats actually are.

I am a liberal. I do not strongly identify with the DNC's current incarnation. There is not nearly enough asskicking going on and the leadership is out of touch with both their base and the public at large, though I can certainly understand how they got to this point, over the years of opening the doors to whatever nutbar was interested in waltzing in. I think that as a society we owe it to ourselves to establish a baseline of care for the commonwealth, and to preserve it. This doesn't mean that Social Security should pay for your second home in means it should make sure you don't wind up homeless and starved to death. It doesn't mean we should sustain a welfare system that lets you hang around indefinitely; it means the government can help you get a job and get your shit back in order, then your ass leaves the program. I believe in the Second Amendment but that sensible gun control needs to get figured out and then get enforced. We need to make sure kids can learn and people can go to the hospital before their intestines are leaping out of their throat. I think we have an immigration procedure for a reason and while it does need to be improved, you can go through it or else be prepared to get your alien ass booted out. I believe that you exhaust - truly exhaust - all diplomatic channels in international policy, then use war as an option of last resort...then drop the warhammer. None of this nancing around and deploying too few troops with inadequate equipment. I know that we need to restore our international image, because like it or not, like them or not, xenophobia is no longer an option. We can't pretend the world isn't at our doorstep and in our homes anymore, and if we can't get respect from the international community, our ability to continue to compete in global commerce will go down the tubes fast.

We're a capitalist society and I actually think that's pretty awesome...competition drives exploration and that equation is why America is consistently amazing at developing new technologies and products. If we make sure that everyone is beginning from a basic level of human existance, and that they have access to health care and education and other basic human services, we will be healthy, smart, and prepared enough to compete with the rest of the world. The dynamics have changed, and we need to keep up and get back to kicking ass.

We have to seek each other out. We have to God, people, we have GOT to talk. We need to drop this business of being politically correct and being afraid of each other. We have to actually talk about what actually makes us different so we can stop arguing about teritary, bullshit nothingness and get on with solving the problems we have. We need to scrap the programs that perpetuate racism, sexism, ageism and all the other -isms that are currently occupying our public policy, and work on creating a dialogue that helps us identify real problems and work towards solving them. I believe that Obama will show the world what the modern liberal is, and I believe that he will encourage this dialogue and restore the independent spirit that America was based on...I think that's what I am most excited about, even more so than any policy he has discussed. I didn't really feel this way until after he won the election, but man...I LOVED it when he said, right in his first damn speech as President-elect, that we have WORK to do, and that people need to be ready to step up. Let's get some of that personal responsibility back, people.

Let's get to work.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Josie, I applaud thee. This was know how I feel about this issue as well. Thanks!