To the leaders of political parties, and to the faithful rank and file, the national interest and the party’s interest ordinarily seem identical. If the country would come to its senses and adopt the party’s platform, all would be as fine as anything can be east of Eden.
As a lifelong Democrat and the son of Democrats — my dad from Manhattan and my mom from the coal country of West Virginia — I’ve longed for the day when the country finally would embrace fully the ideals of justice and equality championed by the modern Democratic Party and articulated so eloquently by Dr. King in his “I Have a Dream.”
Faith in the righteousness of a party’s commitments generally carries with it skepticism about the motives or the capacity of those on the other side of the aisle.
How can anyone who knows anything about the way the world works believe that “the market,” left almost entirely ungoverned by political majorities, will get us closest to heaven on earth?
Does anyone who understands even the most basic biological science actually think that the union of a sperm cell and an egg cell produces at that moment a “human being” with the right to govern the course of a woman’s life for the next twenty years or so?
And guns everywhere? Please.
The power of political conviction is such that I can concede “for the sake of argument” that there are Americans who authentically disagree with me and with the Democratic Party on these matters, but I can’t quite fit into those other moccasins and be for a moment a true believer in the things so many modern Republicans embrace with such evident passion.
In this period of extreme partisanship, most of us have tolerated and many of us have contributed to the stir-the-pot hurly burly, either because we’ve become loyal fans of the propaganda “entertainments” that Roger Ailes wrought or because we’ve felt compelled to throw the rightwing media stars’ molotov cocktails back over the wall at them, meeting the vehemence with vehemence.
And now, of course, we have Trump, an avatar from Ailes World, who somehow has become the 45th President of the United States, and who behaves as if he were a Breitbart-infused troll, tweeting vitriol that comes to him in the wee hours as if that were his first duty as Chief Executive, with everything else left to the generals and to a West Wing staff with a chronic gravitas deficiency.
Party politics won’t save us at this point. Oh, we might see, and I hope we see, a sound repudiation on election day next year of the Republican strategy of ignoring the abomination that is the Trump Presidency and trying desperately to pass legislation that benefits the zillionaire GOP donor class but not the folks who work for a living and have to choose sometimes between the meds and the rent.
But what the country needs most, I think, is a respite from the unbridled partisanship. Let’s find some way to send to the political sidelines for awhile the ideologues and single-issue true believers who have their place in our democracy, constantly asking us to think again about what we’re doing, but who really should not be put in charge of such a diverse country except when we’re so far off course that a radical corrective is required to save the republic itself.
I’m prepared to vote next time for candidates, Democrat or Republican, who present themselves authentically as center-left or center-right moderates, ready to talk to folks on the other side of the aisle and to reach accommodations that might give the purists only half a loaf, but that move the country forward.
Barack Obama was a center-left moderate, but Mitch McConnell and his cronies froze Obama out. Hillary Clinton was a center-left moderate, but she was defeated by decades of demonization and by her flaws as a candidate. The Republican leadership — principally McConnell, but others as well — chose hyper-partisanship and base-stirring over responsible leadership during the past decade. (I’m sure my friends on the other side of the aisle have examples from the Left to nominate.)
What I hope is different now is a recognition by a critical mass of voters that the time has come for folks like John Kasich, who seems to me the clearest example, to have a go at governing. Governor Kasich is a center-right moderate who could help heal the country.