I am liberal.
I make no bones about it. I am a fully partisan liberal. I believe that liberal governance is the best source for our Republic.
We live in an increasingly partisan country. It’s troubling. And, I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed as article after article have lamented the seemingly endless rush to the edges of the political spectrum.
Fingers are pointed in either direction, attempting to cast the blame on each other instead of figuring out how to mend the divide.
There was a time, in fact throughout most of 240 year history, when this country was all about the middle ground. Sometimes it shifted a bit left, sometimes a bit right. But, overall it stayed close to center. This was a time when Congress was generally able to work together. Senators from each side of the aisle would leave work after a long day of legislating and head to dinner or drinks together.
Anecdotal stories tell us that doesn’t really happen much anymore.
You see, the reason I’m writing this piece today isn’t to do what so many other journalists have done over the last few years. I’m not writing a treatise against partisanship.
I’m writing for for consideration of our system of government.
Look, you won’t always get your way. That’s life. That’s why we have compromise. It’s this idea, not only that it’s good to give a little to get a little, but that there’s a third party that needs consideration in any debate.
That’s our Republic. Our country. Our system of government. However you want to put it.
I may have one idea about how to address and issue, and you may have a completely different idea, but we have to remember that in figuring out how best to address said issue, there is – or should be – deference to the system we’re sworn to uphold.
Say what you will about it. I know our country isn’t perfect. I know we’ve made – and continue to make – mistakes. But, we are a successful country with a successful government.
Seriously, think of how much the global map has changed over the last 240 years. It’s not as constant as you might think. Many countries have shrunk or disappeared completely. Some have grown exponentially only to be beaten back.
The United States blossomed from thirteen original colonies into 50 states, and remains strong centuries after its founding.
Quick side note for my liberal friends who are feeling a bit triggered already: I’m not forgetting imperialism or the fact that we still have several territories, of which none have proper representation. I’d love to talk more about this, but this particular essay isn’t the specific place for it. I’ll get back to it soon enough in another essay.
The reason I believe we’ve survived, and even thrived, over the last 240 years is because of the incredible strength of our founding documents.
Naturally, it helps that we have a system by which we can amend our core founding document. And, if that’s not the definition of a living document, I don’t know what is… Oops, my partisanship is showing. I’m working up to addressing it, I promise.
What has bothered me about the last several years specifically, has been the breakdown of our Congress.
They seem to no longer consider that third part of legislating. The regard for our system of government.
Naturally, as a liberal, I place a lot of blame for this on the shoulders of people like Mitch McConnell, who is on video saying the Congress’ primary goal was to try and make Obama a one term president. Not legislating. Not helping middle class Americans. Not solving hunger. No, it was all about keeping that guy they didn’t like from a second term.
It was so baldly partisan.
I have a confession to make.
As I grew up in Texas, and was raised by and grew up around Republicans, I voted for John McCain in 2008.
I know. I’m disappointed in me too.
Don’t get me wrong. I generally like McCain – though I think he’s occasionally lost his spine over the last eight years – but the thought that I ever cast a ballot for Sarah Palin haunts my dreams. I wish I could claim I was naive, but I was a 28 year old finishing up a masters degree in communication. I should’ve known better.
That uncomfortable fact on the table, it’s also worth noting that I didn’t dislike Obama. On the contrary, I found him enlightening. I like his positive rhetoric. I especially liked that he wanted to end the wars (Bush had specifically lost me with the invasion of Iraq). I just thought, perhaps unfairly, that he didn’t quite have the requisite experience you’d want for a president.
I was wrong. Obama had been President of the Harvard Law review, he’d been a distinguished professor of Constitutional Law at Chicago, he’d been a State Senator, and then a United States Senator. Compared to our current president, he might’ve been over-qualified.
I slowly came around to Obama. Very slowly.
The 2010 midterms didn’t phase me. Even though I had started to swing a little left, I foolishly still thought that it didn’t much matter who was in control of Congress because ultimately they usually reverted towards the middle.
Boy, was I wrong.
It’s also worth noting here that as much as I supported the idea of universal healthcare, I thought going after it right out of the gate was the wrong play, and I had criticized Obama for it. I thought he should’ve stayed focused on the economy.
I might be right about that. Perhaps that could’ve prevented the Republican landslide in 2010. Perhaps not. I’m not exactly privy to a lot of insider info, just what the guys on Pod Save America tell me.
But, after those midterms was where the real turn started. The Tea Party movement was gaining a lot of steam and I knew I didn’t like them. You’d see reports, however sporadic they might’ve been, that showed these people – often dressed in some sort of colonial garb – yelling racial epithets and holding signs depicting the President as an evil Muslim guy, or worse, a monkey.
It was disgusting.
Yes, I’d seen some of that during the campaign, but naively assumed that was an extreme minority. But early 2011, it was undeniable. There was something seriously wrong.
I listened to all the critiques and complaints of the Obama administration, at the same time trying to stay educated on what was happening with policy, laws, etc.
And, I came to a conclusion that I dared not say out loud.
I eventually ran out of excuses. It was clearly, whether they even realized they were doing it or not, that many conservatives hated Obama because of his name and/or his skin color.
Not all, of course. #NotAllConservatives. But, it was prominent enough to have a real effect on me.
Because, at the same time, I was seeing tangible differences in the country. Good differences.
The recession had wiped me out. And yet, I’d been able to go back to school and finish my grad degree, I’d been able to pull myself out of debt enough to move back into my own place, I was on the verge of getting healthcare for the first time in several years, and a lot of my friends gained the freedom to get married. Good things were happening, and yet my conservative friends were crying about the decimation of our once great country.
It didn’t compute, and it hastened my move to the left.
But, something else that happened after the 2010 midterms was unprecedented (at least in my lifetime) obstruction in Congress. Armed with that McConnell quote, Republicans in Congress not only were refusing to even listen to Democratic proposals, they were threatening to shut down the federal government if they didn’t get their way on certain things.
To this guy who was still kind of teetering in the middle of the political spectrum, it was damning.
Why would they threaten to kill the government over funding for social safety net programs?
I made no sense to me.
Why not just try and fix the programs to make them more efficient? If there’s fraud, let’s fix it so that only the people who genuinely need the help can get it. What happened to that solution?
Instead, it was threats that is these programs weren’t drastically cut, the Republicans would shut down the government. It was the ultimate take your ball and go home move.
I thought for sure this would outrage Americans. Sure, we may disagree on the best way to administer social safety net programs, but surely it wasn’t worth shutting down the government over. That’s something we very much want to avoid. That can have far reaching, damaging effects. Surely, we wouldn’t…
And, the thing that pissed me off the most was that Republicans in congress crowed about Obama’s refusal to “work” with them, which was clever code for “failed to meet our demands”.
And, worse than that, their followers bought it.
Soon my increasingly partisan conservative friends were all over social media claiming that Obama and the Democrats were being obstructive.
I was dumbfounded.
They controlled Congress. How could they blame the president for their inability to get funding for the government passed? Especially when they wrote it in a way they knew he’d never accept.
Because, here’s the deal. Remember that compromise we talked about earlier? Well, this is one of those key times when – in the past – compromise would’ve been the word of the day. The Republican Congress and the Democratic Executive Branch would sit down and hash out something that worked for both sides.
From what I could see, in the reporting I followed (from reputable sources), the Obama administration was making the effort. In fact, when deals would get done, Democrats would decry the bad deal the Obama Administration had made (think sequestration).
But, the Republicans remained obstinate. They were doubling down on obstructing until 2012 when they could take back the White House and govern the way they wanted, which apparently meant taking a sledgehammer to any federal program they weren’t particularly fond of and passing massive tax cuts for rich people.
I inched more and more to the left.
The 2012 election came and Republicans technically did the right thing by running a popular mainstream Republican who’d been Governor of a liberal state. Had he not been the first one to use the system that eventually became known as Obamacare, thus undercutting most criticism of the program, he’d have been the perfect candidate.
There was a problem, though. Republicans, in their thirst for power, had let the fringe Tea Party have a seat at the table. And, it bit them in the ass. Suddenly, tried and true Republicans were getting primaried, and many Tea Partiers stayed home on election day, or at least didn’t vote for the more moderate Romney.
Obama won decisively, but Democrats still didn’t win back Congress.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Four years of obstruction, capped off with the completely unprecedented refusal by Senate Republicans to even hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland. If there was ever a last straw this was it.
Never before had one party bowed to partisanship so deeply as to completely subvert the standards and practices of our democratic system.
Sure, the previous six years had been frustrating, and people on the left were often angered at Republicans’ seeming disregard for our democratic institutions. But, they always had an excuse, however disingenuous it might’ve been, that they were trying to negotiate. They were just being very, very hard negotiators.
With Garland, they refused to even come to the negotiation table.
Keenly sensing that they might actually have a chance in the upcoming election, they obstructed and delayed. They took President Obama’s Constitutionally granted power away from him. They completely subverted an entire branch of government. All for selfish partisan means.
We’ve gone a full year with an eight member Supreme Court. One branch of our government is hobbled because of blatant partisanship.
And, yet, it worked.
It freaking worked.
Republicans were not outraged. Sure, some of them said they were outraged when Trump race-baited his way into the nomination.
But, at the end of the day, many of them still voted for him.
Pure partisan selfishness.
Whether it was for tax cuts, or rolling back LGBTQ rights, or whatever. One by one, my Republican friends voted for a man espousing patently un-American ideals because they thought maybe they’d still also get that thing they want.
And, now look at it. Look what’s happening.
General Flynn was fired/forced to resign yesterday because he straight up lied about the content of his phone conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., somehow hot realizing that all those lines would be tapped.
And, then the New York Times breaks a story that Trump operatives, in fact, were in contact with Russian operatives during the campaign.
This is interesting because we know that the Trump campaign was briefed in August about Russia’s efforts to undermine the election. Just days after he’d “jokingly” asked Russia to hack his opponent, he was informed that in fact they had done that and were actively working to hurt her, and help him.
His campaign knew that, and still had contact with Russian officials.
And, following the old saying that the cover up is worse than the crime, they routinely lied about having contact with Russia, just as Flynn lied about the content of his phone call with Ambassador Kislyak.
Our intelligence agencies have told us, objectively, that Russia interfered in our election, specifically targeting one side over the other. We know it happened. We know it was their goal to hurt Clinton. We know it is ultimately their goal to destabilize our country.
And yet, all I hear from my conservative/Republican friends is “give him a chance”, “fake news”, “you’re just bitter”, etc.
The hypocrisy alone is infuriating. We just spent four solid years investigating Secretary Clinton because she thought it’d be more convenient to have all her email go to one phone as opposed to two. And, oops, a handful of classified emails, none of which had any truly sensitive data that everyone else didn’t already know on them, got through. God help us, the world is going to end. The rest of the world might see where our last drone strike was…except they already know because there are websites that track that stuff in real time.
Oh, but Benghazi. Remember all those times throughout our country’s history when the Secretary of State was personally held responsible for a terror attack?
Yeah, me neither.
It was galling. And yet, there was a thought that chickens will come home to roost. Once Trump won, and was coming into the White House in open defiance of norms and laws in regards to his businesses and possible ties to Russia, sure enough we’d get our chance to investigate.
Republican committee chairmen are content to do nothing. And, somehow Republicans are mostly okay with this.
Are you serious?
This bears repeating. We know for a fact that Russia wants to destabilize our government. Our intelligence agencies have confirmed this fact. This isn’t a MoveOn.org article. It’s the freaking CIA, NSA, etc.
We know what Russia is doing. They are now doing the exact same thing in France and Germany. We’ve caught them doing it.
We know their plans.
And, it seems, witting or not, that the Trump administration is somehow caught up in this thing.
At the very least, isn’t it worth having a thorough investigation to make sure everything is one the up and up?
And, if there’s nothing to hide, why isn’t the Trump administration jumping at the chance for an investigation?
Well, it could be because they’re guilty. It increasingly seems that way as a new story breaks every day and more people go down for it.
But, it’s also just blind partisanship. Republicans have sold their souls to a Russian devil for a small tax cut.
Would Democrats do the same thing if they were in this position? I’d like to think not, but I honestly don’t know.
There’s a good line from the Aaron Sorkin show Newsroom. At one point, debating the rise of the Tea Party, the lead character played by Jeff Daniels argues that the Democrats never would’ve nominated Abbie Hoffman for anything, nor ever sought his endorsement.
Sure, that’s a fictional show. But, I also think that’s a good point.
Say what you will about the DNC collusion against Bernie. I think it was overstated, but real.
But, in general, Democrats don’t seem given to rushes to the fringe. Sure, the modern Democratic party is becoming more progressive, but unless you’re a fundamentalist religious person, it arguably has been a pretty glacial move to the left.
Despite Bernie’s loss, the Democrats put forth their most progressive platform ever, and it actually wasn’t all that different from the direction we already seemed to be comfortably moving in under Obama. Nice and slow progressive movement, perhaps speeding it up in cases of social equality.
Naturally, everyone should be for equal rights, but somehow it’s still an issue. Republicans, for being the party of low government intervention, sure do like messing with people they disagree with. But, I digress…
Even if Bernie had been the candidate, the platform would’ve almost been close to identical to what it was. So, we’d be in a similar spot. In fact, I think Bernie’s big problem was labeling himself as a Democratic Socialist – a very misunderstood term – when really he’s just a slightly more left wing Democrat.
Anyway, I like to think the Democrats fundamentally wouldn’t let something like the Tea Party happen to them. At least not the running to the fringe part. As far as protest and obstruction go, we’re finding (sadly) the only way to fight fire is with fire.
But, in our case, we’re trying to protect things like social equality and the environment. We’re trying to prevent increased income inequality. We’re trying to prevent another Great Recession.
Republicans were constructive under Obama because they wanted to cut those things. They wanted to gut the social safety net. They wanted to eliminate arts funding. They wanted to privatize all healthcare. They wanted to get rid of all banking regulations. They wanted to get rid of all pollution regulations. They wanted to keep DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
They were defending a divisive and cruel world, a world of increased inequality, a world of decreased air quality, a world of haves and have nots.
Democrats are fighting for support for those in dire straits, for equality for all citizens, for fair treatment of workers, for a planet we can leave our children.
It’s worth fighting for. It’s positive.
And, it’s all being sold out right now. Defending what the Republicans did in Congress under Obama was one thing. But, standing by Trump as revelation after revelation come out about the extent of Russia’s meddling in the election, isn’t just partisan. It’s un-American.
It’s selling our democratic institutions up the river in favor of hopefully getting that pet issue you love satisfied.
Care about our system of government. Don’t burn it down for personal gain. Nothing will be left to protect you when you’re in the minority.
(The governing minority, that is. Of course, Democrats routinely get more cumulative votes for the House, Senate, and White House. Thanks, regional distribution. But again, I digress…)
But, as we become more and more certain of Russia objectives, are you willing to perhaps destabilize the country for your partisanship?
That’s a question I would ask all Americans.
Remember this, Democrats. Let’s vow to never let this happen to us. Learn from what the Republicans are doing.
And Republicans, think on your actions. Broaden your perspective beyond selfish partisanship, and see what effect your actions might have on other Americans, on the country, and on the world.
We need to get back to honest governance. You win some, you lose some. You’re fair to the other side. You compromise when necessary, always maintaining the best interest of the public.
I may be a liberal. But, I’m an American first. I may criticize Trump, but I also criticized Obama when it was necessary. I want this country to truly be great, and I think you get there by being inclusive, fighting for equal rights and protections, and making sure citizens are treated fairly by other citizens. Those should be our ideals. That’s what it means to be American.
Let’s try it out.