In which I finally do talk about the elections.

I’m a Democrat. For as long as I’ve known myself, I’ve been a Democrat. I imagine I always will be. Indeed, contrary to time-honored tradition, as I’ve aged and become more financially secure, I’ve become steadily more liberal.

So. It will hardly come as a surprise to learn that today was not a particularly happy day for me.

What is surprising, though, for me at least, is that I’ve had to give some real thought as to why the day has been as morose as it has been — because it’s deeper than the simple-yet-painful sting of watching the team I believe in lose big.

For all that I’m Team Democrat, for all that I believe in my team and really, really wanted to see it succeed, I am not, by nature, terribly tribal. The Democrats are my team, not my tribe, if that makes sense. I don’t see politics in the country as, by definition, a kind of war, or a zero-sum game of nationwide proportions.

I genuinely don’t believe that Democrats are the only ones capable of coming up with good answers. I’m open to the possibility that we’ve missed a thing or two. And (wait for it) there have been occasional Republicans that I’ve thought were pretty ok — and there have certainly been Democrats that I’ve found loathsome. Look, I’m not even terribly tribal about being Jewish, so why would I get all My People Do Or Die about being a Democrat? A two-party democracy requires two functioning parties in order to, well, function. The Democrats, even at their best, need the Republicans, and vice-versa.

But that, I think, is where my pain lies. My pain, my sorrow, my sense of dread. This Republican Party is not at its best.

Now, I’ll be honest. I don’t believe in golden ages. I don’t know if there was ever a time when a life-long Democrat like me would feel like, boy-howdy! Those Republicans are an entirely serious and worthy bunch of foes! To complicate matters further, I spent the first 14 years of my adult life in a foreign country, so I often feel as if I missed some really important memo about the way that American politics work. I know that the Newt Gingrich years were particularly ugly and pretty much set the stage for today — but were they different in anything but degree? I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know: The GOP that won yesterday is not a party of worthy and serious foes.

They are a party (and I stress – I’m talking about the party, not “Republicans,” writ large) that plays on fear and bigotry. They are a party of hypocrites and liars. They are a party that regularly slams my side of the map for our wide-open approach to such matters as sex and sexuality, and yet goes into over-time spin for men who frequent prostitutes, or abandon their posts to visit a foreign mistress. They want us to believe that tax cuts for the rich are good for business, but tax cuts for the middle-class will kill jobs. They are willing to hold up every.single.piece.of.legislation — even bills providing things like pay for teachers or health care compensation for 9/11 first responders — in order to punish the President they don’t like.They lied to us for eight nightmareishly long years about the wars we had undertaken, and about the torture we were meting out, and they lie to us still, about both. And worst of all, all of this is informed by, predicated on, and suffused with a level of fear and loathing that makes my skin crawl. Fear the Mooslims! FEEEAAARRR THEMMMMM!!! And the gays. Oh, and hey now, by the way (wink, wink!), some are saying that this Barack Hussein Obama fella might not have been born in the US! Golly, I wouldn’t know what to think of such suggestions! And those Tea Partiers? Oh, gosh, they’re just patriotic Americans! Nothing to see here! Least of all the man/deep-pocketed-GOP-front-groups behind the curtain! Oh, and, did we mention? Death panels.

If we, the Democrats, were fighting an ideology that was somehow bigger than “defeat the Democrats and support the rich,” I wouldn’t feel so ill. If today’s GOP were offering, you know, ideas, I wouldn’t feel so ill. If we were engaging on the merits of a case, the merits of a piece of legislation, the merits of this appointee or that bit of policy — I wouldn’t feel so ill.

But what the GOP is doing — what it has done since the Newt Gingrich House — is dragging us down to our lowest level of discourse, our basest fears, our most easily pushed buttons. They are playing us, and they are doing it magnificently. And the depth of the hypocrisy, not to mention the utter lack of concern for honest-to-God real human lives that are damaged or destroyed in the process is just mindboggling to me.

The GOP of today is, in a word, a bully. It’s the biggest damn bully on the block, and it just won control of half of our legislative branch.

And that makes me want to hang my head and weep.


  1. dmf

     /  November 3, 2010

    amen sister.
    on a brighter note nich kristof was quite good, he may need an extrasmart and truly brave person category all of his own, did you know that women own just 1% of property in the world?

  2. I was only in my early teens during the Gingrich era. Still something of a right-wingnut back then, due to my parents’ influence. I only remember flashes: I remember hearing about one of the government shutdowns on the car radio, for example. I do remember the impeachment debacle, which (to my undending shame) I was one of only two people in my 8th grade social studies class to defend. I remember Gingrich leaving, and then Livingston leaving like a week later, which I thought was strange. Why did he even take the job if he knew he had that baggage? From what I’ve read since then, it wasn’t so great a time.

    The funny thing is, I think the question of whether the Republicans have gotten worse since Gingrich–something I occasionally ask myself–just kind of misses the point. I think it’s changed into a completely different thing altogether. Nowadays I have very few positive things to say about Newt, but at the very least the guy did have ideological goals and an interest in governing. Republicans these days don’t really have that. Sure, they talk tall about spending and repealing health care and whatnot, but I doubt they’ll even bother with any of that. In 2005-2006 they had control of literally every lever of power and they did nothing with it at all. Actually, that’s not quite right. They did what they always do–ease regulations, which saves their business supporters money, and give tax breaks to their friends. The more one thinks about it, the more the GOP resembles some sort of leeching corporation that sucks up massive investments, tries to get into office to return the investment (and then some), rarely passes anything of note, and is merely interested in holding onto power for as long as possible. All the rhetoric they throw out about deficits–it is just advertising. I suppose that’s why I’m a little less panicky than some Dems are about Boehner, because I figure the GOP is going to be inert rather than full-out destructive, since they don’t have any agenda or specific objectives aside from helping out their supporters, and doing lots of controversial things could jeopardize their ability to provide for their clients. At least, that’s how it played out before. Boehner is the poster boy of this.

    Am I right? Crazy? You be the judge.

  3. Mnemosyne

     /  November 3, 2010

    The really astounding thing to me is that actual criminals ran as Republicans this year and Republican voters didn’t care. In fact, bragging about war crimes or how you defrauded Medicare actually made Republican voters like them more.

    That’s what I have a hard time understanding. How deeply have you sunk into “my party, right or wrong” when you won’t even withhold your vote for actual criminal activity?

  4. sue swartz

     /  November 3, 2010

    Worse, much worse. Newt Gingrich, loathsome though he was, had ideology. He had some shred of self-restraint. And as much as Republicans in days yonder hated their rivals, they didn’t consider them a different species than human. When I see the foaming at the mouth of today’s official Republican standard bearers, I can’t help but think: Brown Shirts. Barbarians. People who would not hesitate to physically hurt me and destroy all I hold dear. Maybe I’m paranoid, but probably not. (Thanks for the opportunity to vent.)

  5. i would like to set the republican party on fire. i’d also like to set a whole bunch of people on the left on fire. i’m sick of hearing about “obama angered his base.” he didn’t anger me. so STFU.

  6. The fact that I came of age during the Clinton years had an important effect on my political outlook. The first presidential election I paid any attention to was 1992, when I was 15, and although I naturally rooted for Clinton because my parents did, my observations were mostly superficial. I actually don’t remember the 1994 Republican takeover. It just wasn’t on my radar at the time. But a year later, as I was beginning college, the government shutdown had an immediate impact on my family, for my father was a federal employee, and on our next-door neighbor, a single black woman with a teenage son. It didn’t help things that this was around the time one of my brothers passed away.

    For the first time, I got a very direct glimpse of the effect that politics could have on everyday lives. It was no longer just a funny game I saw on TV, featuring colorful personalities in fancy suits. I also began to have my first informed judgment on a political figure, in this case a Congressional leader by the name of Newt Gingrich, who provided me with my first taste of what it was like to deeply loathe a politician.

    I also was beginning to discover the phenomenon of Rush Limbaugh, as well as Christian Coalition figures such as Falwell, Robertson, and Reed. I personally encountered people who insisted with a straight face that the president was a rapist, a murderer, and a drug addict. These people, who included a few of my parents’ friends, typically spoke of liberals as if describing a distinct species of insect. Arguing with them was usually an exercise in futility, for they had a barrage of facts which they had picked up from talk radio, which they listened to far more often than I had time to listen to anything.

    These experiences had a powerful impact on me, because I couldn’t help noticing that the contemporary American right was apparently run by complete lunatics and charlatans. The maligned liberals, on the other hand, were mostly represented for me by thoughtful milquetoasts like Michael Kinsley. Maybe it wasn’t fair that I got such a terrible first impression of conservatives, who I know include many reasonable individuals. I was well aware that the left had its share of clowns, such as Al Sharpton, but they didn’t seem to matter a whole lot. There was a notable imbalance in the political spectrum that belied the cliche evenhandedness so many pundits found seductive.

    I made these observations long before I gave any serious thought to such topics as budgets, taxes, health care, trade, and so on. While certain stuff like environmentalism and gay rights were no-brainers to me from the start, I was initially tempted in a more rightward direction on issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and school vouchers. But the disintegration of any sane right-wing establishment was formative for me, and I would watch the problem grow ever worse as the years passed.

    Everything that’s happening now looks to me like the logical end result of what was happening in the ’90s. A very moderate Democratic president presiding over an economic boom is clobbered by conservatives as some kind of left-wing hippie and nearly hounded from office for sexual lapses of no consequence to anyone but his own family. A Republican enters the White House under highly questionable circumstances and in the course of eight years leaves the country in two hapless wars one of which he started for no good reason, unprecedented debt, and the worst recession since the Great Depression. The disaster of the Bush years is so breathtaking I almost distrust my own judgment on the matter. Maybe I’m simply falling prey to the same kind of partisan hatred that characterized Clinton’s adversaries. But no matter how I look at it, I can’t escape the conclusion that Bush truly is one of the worst presidents in history. And it’s amazing to watch the conservative establishment today attempt to make us all forget that just a few short years ago they practically worshipped the man.

    The most visible difference on the right compared with the 1990s is FOX News. Yes, it did begin in 1996, but it didn’t become a force to be reckoned with until the Bush years. The first sign came with the election itself, when an anchor who just happened to be Bush’s first cousin called the election for Bush, and all the other news networks–the legitimate ones, that is–followed suit. This set the tone for the Florida post-election fiasco that would follow.

    FOX has grown steadily worse. Before it was merely a right-leaning network that pretended to be fair and balanced. Now it’s just a TV version of talk radio, a calculated, large-scale attempt to brainwash its viewers into supporting conservatives and hating liberals, through the use of outright lies and conspiracy-mongering, nonstop 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. It is nothing more than the right’s Pravda. And it still has an astonishing influence on the mainstream networks, the ones we’re supposed to believe are “liberal-biased.”

    So it was all set when the godfather of this mode of politics, Rush Limbaugh, says he hopes the new president fails, and not a single Republican in power has the strength to distance himself from Limbaugh, not without quickly reversing himself and groveling at Limbaugh’s feet for forgiveness. This is what’s truly new about the right wing in the past couple of years: there is now no separation at all between the propagandists of right-wing media and the Republicans holding public office. And somehow, the stuff said against Obama and the Democrats is worse than it was during the Clinton years. Back then, they were merely nasty. Now, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say they are stoking insurrection. The tone of Obama hatred isn’t just hysterical, but contains not-very-subtle appeals to actual violence, from talks of Second Amendment solutions to drawing crosshairs on Congressional maps with the slogan “Don’t retreat–reload.” What’s scariest about all this is that the Clinton years gave us Timothy McVeigh; who knows what’s coming up now. And something will, make no mistake, because the Tea Party will invariably be disappointed when the officials they have elected fail to stop Obama’s agenda. And they don’t strike me as the sorts of people to take disappointment by packing their bags and walking home.

    That’s why there’s a lot more to the current political situation than rooting for teams. I don’t mean to suggest that the past was one Golden Age after another–I know my parents’ generation alone went through Vietnam and Watergate–but I feel in my bones that there’s something uniquely disturbing about what’s happening now, even under the first president in my life I’ve had any enthusiasm for.

  7. I can’t bring myself to identify with any political party, but I really wish there were more Joseph Caos and less Sarah Palins in the Republican party (though I think he got voted out as well). The level of nastiness I’ve seen in the past couple years is appalling.

    I guess while I’m at it, I might as well wish for world peace and a pony too.

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I tend to vote for more Democrats than Republicans for all the reasons you describe. What I have noticed, too, is that the Republicans who earn my support are those who hold state office, not national. Living in the Northeast, these Republicans tend be more moderate (of the Jim Jeffords type).

    What I have noticed is that neither party seems to be getting the message that the voters want real change, not simply change to the other party. Otherwise, I don’t think we’d have had this mid-term party-swap under the last three presidents.

    Historically, we should note that the bullies (Hitler, fascism in general, slave-owners) do not win. Those who stand in solidarity against them do.

  9. Gravie

     /  November 5, 2010

    I had this exact conversation on a friend’s FB page the other day. My friend, the rarest of breeds — a dyed-in-the-wool liberal warrior who is also a Mormon — has an interesting mix of FB friends, including a lot of self-denying right-wingers. (They think they’re moderate independents but their ideas will tell you otherwise.) Their favorite theme, when backed into a corner, is “well, the Democrats and Republicans are equally bad.” To which I always call bs. You said it much better than I did, though.

  10. ee, I am finally in the place where I can read about politics again. Like you, I have been a lifelong Democrat. I saw Reagan on the teevee when I was young (I want to say eight, but I’m fuzzy on the exact age), and I thought to myself, “Who is this man and why is anyone listening to him?” I have never voted for a Republican, but I have voted third party. I am open to good ideas no matter from whom they emanate. However, as you have stated so eloquently, the Republican Party of today is not a party equipped with good ideas. Any ideas, really. They ARE bullies and fear mongers, and they won on Tuesday. The last, more than anything, is what enraged and disgusted me more than anything else. The last is what made me question why I follow politics so closely. Rachel asked a question the other night (and I am paraphrasing) along the lines of, “How can you argue with someone like Steve King?” She meant people who don’t bother with facts. I spent time before the election arguing with folks on the right as to who exactly fucked up the country and who has been trying to fix it the past two years. Facts mattered not. Then, on my side, I argued with Democrats who were going to vote third party locally (again! That’s how we got Pawlenty for the last eight years) because they wanted to make a statement. It all wore me out. Then, the infighting began after the election results were reported, with many on the left openly gloating over how they were right and that Obama made everyone lose because he pushed bipartisanship too much–and that’s when I walked away. I was too enraged to engage.

    Now, I have calmed down a bit, but I’m still feeling rather stabby stabby toward my own side (I refuse to think about the batshitcrazy on the right at the current time). I despair.

  1. Wipeout, pt. III « AbsurdBeats
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