Monday, November 10, 2008

The Political Litmus Test.

One of the things that was so refreshing about being an Obama supporter was the vast array of thinkers, statesmen, artists, actors and writers that came out publicly for his candidacy. The list of people that I respected who decided to back Obama during this election cycle is long and impressive. It seemed that every week some other figure was coming out to back the Illinois senator. While a lot of these people were predictable, there were quite a few that came as a surprise. Yet what was most remarkable was that I was experiencing much the same phenomena in my own life. The vast majority (and there were really very few exceptions) of the folks that I'm close with felt the same as me when it came to picking our next president.

It's hard for me not to use this variable as a litmus test. The two candidates were so starkly differentiated that they seemed to effectively divide the American populace into camps, and identification with one or the other suggests a fairly distinct profile in terms of philosophy and world view. Perhaps it's silly to consider political affiliation as a factor one uses in determining who he/she would like to spend time with. Maybe it's unfair to become biased toward an individual with such a radically different life perspective that they would pick the ticket that one abhors. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that these associations didn't matter to me. In fact, I could give specific examples from my own experience that demonstrate otherwise.

I realize that this is a crucial time in American history, and that it's important to the future of the nation that some common ground be discovered to mark the path forward. I noted as much in a post after last Tuesday. Still there's something grating about suggestions that Obama must "govern from the center". Commentators from sources like the Weekly Standard and The National Review are trying to make the case that the country remains moderately conservative, despite what the polls showed last week. It's not difficult to figure out why they would insist upon that highly dubious assumption. Their side lost, and lost big. They know that it's the end of an era in America, and they are very unhappy about that fact.

Before the President-Elect and his new team accepts the assertion that bipartisanship requires paying homage to a discredited approach to American governance, I hope they take a few minutes to consider the quality of the voices who still stubbornly cling to their failed and outmoded belief systems. I think it's vital to remember that those who moan the most loudly for "compromise" are the same people that treated their opposition with so much contempt when they held consolidated power. Now they are forced to cry for a "fair and balanced" playing field. It's amusing how the "mandates" of 2000 and 2004 were so much narrower than the "tight race" just concluded, regardless of the actual numbers.

The reality is that the other side has been mortally weakened, is in a state of palpable disarray, and overcome with a breathless sense of desperation. This is a group that once saw itself as invulnerable. Now they are asking for temperance, and hoping for mercy. Their strategists and leaders have always preached that capitulation is self-destructive. They weren't extending any breaks to their critics during the last eight years. They did everything they could to marginalize their opponents. The temptation to repay them in kind is virtually insurmountable. It's not as if I have the urge to destroy the opposition utterly, but rather (playing off the immortal words of Far Right extremist Grover Norquist) "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

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