Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Miss Republicans


Aye, that may seem like an odd remark before I set off to the Maine Democratic State Convention as a delegate but a conversation yesterday set me yearning…yes, for Republicans. I’m not talking about the present tea-infused party built on rejection of ideas, consensus, science, and President Obama but an old party with grand ideals.


I grew up in a family of labor oriented Democrats and that no doubt formulated my ideas about fairness, convictions, and personal active participation in politics as a result. While we took philosophical exception with GOP ideals, we were never taught to despise Republicans. At that time, on the national level Democrats were a majority in Congress but in the politics of my state Republicans were on top, and the local city government seesawed back and forth. Yet ideological differences did not result in gridlock because the art and responsibility of governing was taken seriously. Things needed to get done. The majority got to set the direction and with a bit of cooperation and consensus, compromises containing concessions that neither undermined the majority’s bearing nor were completely void of some minority contributions became law.

Today attempting to replicate that governing situation anew operates under an illusion that it is centrist compromising which is missing in modern two party politics. However that is misleading when one considers that the center of our political historical thread moves slow and steady in pace with time. Progress in this country has generally always taken time and often far too much as in the cases of slavery or voting rights for women. In fact, we on what is often called the left currently are actually the center, especially when one discusses matters on an issue by issue basis with real discourse instead of the extremist positioning that quite frankly mostly originates on the new right.

Three quarters of a century of building a shared social contract in this country along with decades of step by step progress on worker rights, environmental protections, safety nets, and extending and protecting civil rights are utterly rejected today in a desire to push back all at once, on every front, this complete shared history of lawmaking by today’s right in obeisance by Republicans to the tea party, market manipulators, and social issue fundamentalists. When the center-liberal hand is extended across the aisle it most always finds empty air and the reverse when honestly examined is simply not the predominate case. Indeed, Democrats have often crafted legislation that contains great concessions as a good faith starting point much to the chagrin of many party loyalists but even those efforts are greeted by an impenetrable wall of rejection on the right.

This current observation is not just a reactive countering rejection of historical conservatism. Many past conservatives were fundamentally different than today’s GOP absolutism practitioners. Principled conservatives stand for something and should be debated, included in decision making, and respected but the pretenders of today ought not to be assigned any undue gravitas when they erect their walls.

This supposed void in the center also leads to independent candidates claiming they will be center players, people wanting the two sides to come together in center compromise without any real parameters of definition, and news reporting of supposed centrist positions without acknowledging that present day Republicans see the center not as a compromise between two points based on today’s reality of decades of law building but an expectation of reversal of almost all the ground covered since the Roosevelt administration. Society is not well served when wishful centrists place themselves in an erroneous concept of center because their outlook is about tone not merit and who sacrifice history and direction to the desire for expediency above all.

I respect and miss the old fashioned, small town conservative, child of immigrants who made good, part owner of the local hardware store or local bread and butter lawyer, who did a civic turn or two with the downtown chamber, and was a local deacon who might take issue with higher taxes but did not begrudge all taxes all the time and who in turn strove to understand and respect the moral issues involved and would take part in the debate or public political service to work toward possible eventual consensus. Unfortunately, that conservative has been often replaced by a grandchild of immigrants who despises new immigrants, had local ownership whipped out by big box stores, gets civics from single issue radio ranters, uses religion to create division, argues against all taxes for any purpose (except cops, firemen and soldiers to protect his private property), rejects any moral argument over unflinching trust in the never erring market, and uses outright falsehoods to defeat issues at any cost and considers consensus as something for losers.

Yes, I miss competing in the political world of ideas with Republicans who valued participatory governing with respect for progress and people.

3 comments:

  1. You paint a picture of the current situation.

    I do seem to agree with a lot but disagree on your view of centrists. You describe GOP as no longer having centrists. I would disagree and say GOP that is visible no longer has many centrists. However, underneath they are like the left - their middle of the road folks are feeling left out.

    President Obama moved ahead with a lot of progressive positions. However, he didn't move ahead with enough outreach at the beginning, and that backfired. The progressive movement got used to getting it's way to some extent but through executive order, and forgot something important....

    Almost all these past movements took time to convince the country to go that way. You HAVE to WORK on the convincing & only after the people are ready, make the move. That pushiness, has backfired. It's part of the complaint on the right. It's part of the fuel & reasoning for justifying their anti-left attitudes.

    So while I find then mistaken in many ways that they have therefore gone SO far right and become so bellicose & attacking at everything.... I do believe progressives need to look at this, & change their approach. Instead of insisting it's the right way... go back to teaching it's the right way, with a little more patience. Less attacking at others who "don't get it yet." More confidence that America is filled with good people and it's up to progressives to get to their hearts and minds through the thicket of lies and nonsense put out by so much of "the right."

    It's why or how I go back to my experience, which is similar to you. I see not only GOP center gone, but I see Dem center present but being badly beaten up within the party for having the patience and more moderate policy ideas. To be fair, in turn progressives feel beaten up... but I think some of that is just too much of a good thing (EOs) without enough of the hard work, working out to make geninue progress.

    I also don't agree with all of the progressive platforms. Some ideas deserve to become law of the land & are good for everyone. Progressives is also the group that during FDR was advocating for inferiority of blacks. During 911 some were selling all sorts of conspiracy theories. To add...

    For me Israel is a big topic. Progressives that are hard left, often go so far left that they adopt Hamas rhetoric and fall off the table and join the hard right. So maybe it's our definition of progressive that's different. In my definition there is need for caution at adopting all of the progressive platform. Another example is that within racism, all of the left agrees blacks deserve equality & BLMs matters. But there is some movement to denigrate "whites" or "take what they deserve any which way." That degree of progressive, isn't progressive but it is present in the left and has to be dealt with by the centrist party. I worry when there's a push to go so far progressive that policies are pushed for that aren't centrist enough for even the old GOP to make a deal with.

    con't

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  2. We all have a lot of work to do. One concept I'll add to your mix that is sorely in the way and has caused a lot of the current problem is.... false equivalency.

    The media got the idea that to be "fair" and "unbias" they needed to identify each sides views and present them as "equal." They bent over to do so, to the point of not explaining what was glaringly wrong with some positions. Even factually glaringly wrong. We can get into how much of that is about viewership. But it's not all. It's a strange idea that's very uncentrist, that says every side counts no matter how far from center, & how unfactual. The media stopped reflecting the culture. And started reflecting each little bit of subculture that wanted to be heard & BECOME the culture. Ironically this idea of considering everyone's ideas equally, is itself very progressive. But it got warped somehow and now we're left with a warped situation.

    So these are some thoughts off the top of my head. Obviously easier to write here than in a FB or twitter feed :).

    I keep spending time on this, but really I need to do work, get set up with new computer -- and get some advocacy work going! The current situation is a disaster.

    :)

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  3. Thank you for your well thought out comments.

    I’m not sure if there is really a moderate GOP anymore. Part of my opinion on that is based on my observations and interactions with one of my Senators, Susan Collins, over the years here in Maine. She is often held up by the national press as a heroic moderate. And yes, under great pressure from voters, she sometimes (far rarer than what appears to be so) takes a decent stand on an item. But her voting record tells a far different story. Other than a couple clutch votes here or there that make the press swoon, she casts a 90%+ hard right vote record.

    There are two key observations you make that I take to heart.

    First is the art of convincing (teaching) the opposition. We need to be creative and try, try, try again. I remember when the tea party got going and I was a Democratic Party official at the time. The crash of 2008 was happening as there were some tea party protests focused against big banks and bail outs. I said, “something like 20% or so of these people should be ours, it’s the economic rigging they’re mad about, we should capture that.” But I got a lot of chuckles; caricaturing was easier.

    Secondly, your expectations of the media are important. Sure, giving opinion holders a place to state their case is fair. However, the reporting, not opinion gathering, is about truth and that should be our measure of what we trust. I’ve been in newspaper publishing for over 35 years and its continuing demise and the ratings games driving television “news” are a sad disservice to citizens. Somehow we need to rebuild independent, skeptical, frank reporting in this country or surely we’ll continue on the dumb-down destructive path we are presently on.

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Thank you, dialogue is appreciated.