The political landscape of this country can be summed up in one word: vicious. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen the kind of outright partisanship that’s dividing this country into distinct blue and red factions. President Obama’s being called a nazi, a communist, a Kenyan, and the word liberal is still considered a derogatory term by many. So, who is to blame for this onslaught of venom from the right? Why, we are. . . the very same liberals who are under the gun.
During the George W. Bush years, the outrage over his administration’s policies boiled over to such a degree that nothing was taboo. We called him a nazi, we called him a fascist, we burned effigies of him in the streets, and there was nothing sacred about the posters carried during anti-war rallies. Does this mean that we were wrong in feeling outrage? Of course not, there was plenty to be angry about during the Bush years. However, regardless of how we may have felt about the issues, that doesn’t excuse the tone and approach we took. We, who are supposed to be the “intellectual elite”, let ourselves get goaded into a screaming-match that is the basis for what the right is flinging back at us now.
Regardless of if we were right or wrong, no matter how strongly we may believe we were right, we set a horrible precedent. We sank right down to the level of the conservative mud-slingers and gave the conservaties, particularly the Tea Party, all the ammunition they ever needed to rally support. They can now call us freedom-haters with the same poison language we used against them. After all, why wouldn’t they? They’re simply one-upping us, stepping only a few steps over the line that we drew and then ran over. We gave them the weapon they needed to fight us: self-righteous outrage fueled by memories of our attacks on them. And when you give a chimp a gun, you don’t blame the chimp when it shoots somebody.
We made some pretty horrendous mistakes that the right has taken and run with. So, what can we do? It’s simple, we simply have to rise above it and continue moving forward. The issues at hand are important, but this time we have to address them like the adults in the room, instead of sinking down to the shouting contest of the past. Let the Republicans and other conservatives shout, rally, scream, and yell. They are more than capable of sinking their own ships, especially now that a new crack in the armor is appearing.
During the health care debates, the presence of a group known as the Tea Party was undeniable. Their rallies, promoting mainly fear of the coming changes, were showcases of the kind of rabid ideology conservatives are ready to embrace in this day and age. The Tea Party is a far-right answer to the Republican party’s standard right-of-center politicians, and there have been several cases where an incumbent Republican politician has been voted out in favor of a Tea Party candidate.
The Tea Party is dividing the Republican party down the middle. And, as one prominent Republican once said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The first targets of the hyper-idealogical Tea Party are the centrist Republicans, not the Democrats. This creates an interesting set of circumstances: Republican politicians will either have to shift their policies to appease the Tea Party, potentially alienating independent and right-of-center voters, or they’ll be under threat of being replaced by a Tea Party candidate.
What happens next is the tricky part. The Democrats will lose seats in both the senate and in congress, but it’s very unlikely they’ll lose their majorities. Sure, the filibuster-proof majorities will be gone, but that doesn’t matter since the Dems never had the guts to use them anyway. The tension will continue to grow as the Tea Party picks up more and more steam, generating more empty outrage over the Obama administration, putting more pressure on centrist Republicans to fall in line or be ousted in the next election. My advice to them is to run, run across the aisle and stand with the majority in order go get things done. Results will always win over ideals and outrage.
As time passes, the current Tea Party candidates will fail to live up to the impossible ideals of the Tea Party and the rhetoric of the likes of Glenn Beck. Their own candidates will begin to take heat for not bringing change fast enough, much like they did to Obama starting the week after his election. There will be blood in the water, that’s for sure, and Republicans will be scrambling to ensure their seats in congress and the senate come 2012. As I said, results will matter more than promises, and the only way they’ll get any results under their belts, not to mention the support of anyone outside the Tea Party, will be to vote with Democrats on upcoming bills.
So where does that leave the Democrats? They have to rise above the bickering, the name-calling, and stop acknowledging the blubbering outrage of people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Realizing that Beck and Limbaugh are far more concerned with their ratings than the ideals of their party is going to be the first step, and we’re not going to win any elections or approval ratings trying to shout down or even get into debates with radio personalities. President Obama, in particular, needs to worry less about the resistance his policies see in the here and now, and focus on moving his policies forward. The only way for Barack Obama to ensure a victory in the 2012 presidential race is to bring results of his first four years in office, in order to give credibility to the promises for the remaining four. In the end, history will remember what was accomplished, not what was attempted.
The same can be said for all of us. It’s time to stop engaging the Tea Party and the outrageous claims made by their leaders. Of course Obama is American, of course he’s neither a nazi or a socialist. We know that, Glenn Beck knows that, but the average Tea Party supporter doesn’t know any better and is whipped up into a frenzy based solely on the emotional response produced by hearing those things. We need to rise above them, be the adults, and stop giving in to tempter-tantrums. Debating issues with a Tea Party follower is useless, they have faith that their own views are right and earnestly believe that liberals are evil people out to destroy their way of life. We cannot get caught up in emotional warfare with them any longer. We have to rise above all that and ignore them, let them torpedo themselves, if we are ever going to see reason win out over zealotry.
The truth of the matter is that the deciding factor in the upcoming elections is going to be the independent vote, as it was in the last election. As long as we stick to our principles and avoid jumping down in the mud with the conservatives, we will win. An undecided voter isn’t going to look favorably on the Tea Party’s extreme viewpoints and unfounded claims, but they’re not going to look favorably at us either if we show them exactly the same thing. I say let the conservatives eat each other, we have a lot of serious work to do and it’s far too important to let fear-mongering and self-righteous nationalism distract us from that fact.