Over on the right-wing blog I read far too much of, there is much crowing and celebrating. There is a post that suggests that the Republican Party is the American Party now because it not only controls the Presidency and both houses of Congress, but the majority of Statehouses and State Legislatures across the country.
I pointed out the Republican Presidential candidate has received more votes than the Democrat candidate exactly one time since 1988 and that there is no American Party. And that believing the Republican Party is the American Party is the kind of arrogant thinking that leads the American people to switch gears every few years. This happens each and every time the Presidency changes parties.
And it is that arrogance that helped defeat the Dems this year.
I think back eight years to when Obama was elected. He was described as a cautious man. He would not seek a revolution or dramatic, instant change. Instead, he believed in incremental change and the long game. Small steps won gradually would lead to more systemic changes over the long run. Large leaps forward ran the risk of a revolt against liberal and progressive ideals.
It’s hard to imagine this now but candidate Obama and newly elected President Obama was not publicly in support of same sex marriage. He did not immediately seek the passage of universal health care and when he did, he ultimately put his weight behind a plan that was Republican before it was his. There are plenty of other examples of his incremental approach to policy and it was something I appreciated about him. He was the only adult in the room, recognizing that, for the most part, the American people are not as liberal as us liberals want to believe and neither are they as conservative as the right would like to believe. Long-term success at making changes that are long-lasting and real rather than flash-in-the-pan tinkering that is turned back with the next election required long-term thinking, and building the foundation.
Only something happened in Obama’s second term. I thought he saw the end of his Presidency and realized all of that long-term thinking was nice and all but where was the guarantee that any of this would continue beyond his term. I think he sped things up and got a little arrogant about the idea that the American electorate had changed in some fundamental way.
On foreign policy, he took a softer approach and tried to get other countries to lead some of these efforts. Not a bad thing, from my perspective, but anathema to the right and some portions of the middle.
On domestic affairs, we went from a very real battle over same sex marriage to suddenly allowing transgender soldiers to openly serve, to forcing transgender bathroom policies on the States from the federal government, and progressives began squawking about free college education for all, and presenting a list of other things that were necessary and right. I’m not here saying any of this is bad. I support just about all of on some level but they are anathema to the right and some portions of the middle.
But we liberals and progressives lost sight of some fundamental truths of the American people. The fundamental truths that haven’t changed in my adult life time. There are a whole lot of people in this country who don’t want moral behavior pushed on them by the federal government. Regardless of the “rightness” of the issue, these things need to percolate for a time to achieve permanence. Think about how long same sex marriage took to achieve. And it was an effort that really began at the state level — yes, primarily in the more liberal states, but still … at the state level.
Compare that to the whole transgender issue. Something I don’t recall hearing a lot about until after same sex marriage success was achieved and then all of a sudden, bam, transgender this and transgender that and within a very short time, the federal government was trying to force rules on the States. This may not be a big deal in your blue bubble, but it is a huge deal in the red swaths of America that absolutely cannot stand that kind of federal supremacy and arrogance.
I really think that liberals and progressives began to believe in the inevitability of “progress” towards their agenda, their version of America. That America had become a liberal nation, that the Democrat Party had become the American Party. That a new day had dawned and this tide was going to keep coming in.
Well, we were all wrong. All completely wrong. We are still a very, deeply divided nation. We lost sight of that in the progress made during Obama and thought it inevitable that it could continue for another four or eight years and maybe even more. Deeply divided. There is no American Party. There are only red states and blue states. The parties are regional and demographic in nature, but neither one of them is national in scope or followers.
The good news? Republicans are already taking the crown of arrogance for themselves. Whether it is two or four years from now, if they continue to act with the arrogance they are showing so far, the tide will turn again. My only hope is that when the inevitable happens, we on the left remember this lesson and accept the long-term view and don’t push for radical change.