Thursday, November 06, 2008

You Keep Using That Word....

It is expected that the two candidates and their parties bury the hatchet after each election. Each victory or concession speech must contain some sort of call for unity, lest the candidate be considered a poor sport. The congressional leaders and the outgoing president must also give a nod to bipartisanship.

And we keep hoping that this time they'll get it right. As Americans, we take it seriously. We would really like to see each side work together to find some sort of common ground, some moderate approach that will provide some sort of change we can all believe in, to borrow a phrase. We're running out of hope, but I think we have one more try left in us.

What I believe we the people are asking for is cooperation and respect. That means considering the other viewpoint enough to not propose something that you know the other side is going to automatically disagree with. It's at least showing that you DID consider their principles in coming up with a proposal. It's putting your idea forward and saying "here's the beginning of a collaborative effort to find something we can all agree on eventually".

What we get, however, is something entirely different. It seems as if what the various parties are really saying when they call for "Bipartisanship" is "make it easy for everyone and see things my way." It's veiled code for "surrender now or we'll beat you black and blue from now 'til Judgment Day."

And we're tired of it. A few weeks ago I was watching the PBS documentary on Ronald Reagan. They were covering Reagan's first big fight to pass his economic plans. In the end Reagan won. Then Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill called Reagan to congratulate him on a good fight. You could see that there was genuine respect between the two. One of them didn't get his way, but they both felt they'd done their duty and were willing to leave the rest up to history.

Perhaps I glamorize the days of my youth, but it really seemed like a different atmosphere then. I'm sure there was animosity and maneuverings, but at the very least the volume was softer. Today the partisan rancor has reached the level of shrieking. The fighting has become more important than what they're fighting over. It's scorched-earth politics, and I believe one facet of the Obama victory is America saying "Enough is enough!"

In a move that practically gave me whiplash from doing a double-take, Sen. Harry Reid--one of the chief shriekers in my book--spelled it out. "This is a mandate to get along, to get something done in a bipartisan way," he said. "This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology."

I have to look at Sen. Reid in a whole new light right now. While many on the Left are lining up to claim this election cycle as America clearly embracing Liberalism, he took the moderate view. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, too, seems to be interpreting events in a similar way.

I'm enough of an optimist to hope this time will be different. I believe the Democrats have realized that it's "their show" now. If they don't do better with their chance than the Republicans have done with theirs they could very well find the situation reversed yet again. I hope they're feeling just a little embaraced at their treatment of the previous administration now that they realize they're about to be exposed to the same harsh light themselves. And I hope the Right choose to take the high road and forego "giving them a taste of their own medicine".

The pessimist in me says give it a week and they'll all be back to their regular, "cuddly" selves. But that's not what this nation needs. We've never needed that, actually, but hopefully now we ALL see it.

It's been a long time since Americans have been able to feel good about voting for a candidate. For far too long voting has been more about damage control than support; which candidate will take us to the bottom the slowest. In Obama many Americans found a candidate that they could feel good voting for. I envy them that. And I do at least feel good that he was a candidate in the first place. It DOES mean something about this country that three of the major players in this election were "non-traditional"(that would be Obama, Palin, and Hillary, in case I was too vague).

I know I didn't feel good about my choice. I didn't see in Obama what many people saw, and I wasn't thrilled about McCain, either. I do hope in a few years I can gladly admit that I was wrong. I'd love to see Obama be the change we've all been hoping for. I sincerely mean that. If America is better off in four years I'll be happy to give him credit.

Of course just what is meant by "better off" is not universal for all Americans. I realize that. Perhaps one day I'll write up a post on how I would define it. But for now, I just want to say this to our leaders:

You've all pledged to do your part to make this time different. I'm going to hold you all to that. I think we all will.

1 comment:

Dan Stratton said...

I have to agree with Glenn Beck's stance now. Obama is president and we back our president. We need to determine what are out values and stand on those. If the politicians do not follow those values, it is our responsibility to stand up and let them know where they are violating them.

In other words, not voting for something because "I'm not a ____" is not a value. I'm not voting for something because "I believe ____" is the right approach.