As one of the apparently three Democrats in Walton County, I wanted to “reach across the aisle” and help my Republican brethren cope with the results of the 2012 presidential election. Believe me, I know about losing. I am a member of the party of Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis! Here are a few things I have learned from my party losing a dozen or so recent elections:
1. The sun will come out tomorrow. One truism of elections is that your candidate is never as good as you hope he or she will be, and their candidate is never as bad as you think they are going to be. Obama will be fine. Despite what you heard during the campaign, he is not going to take your guns, make your sister have an abortion, or raise the Kenyan flag over the White House. He is very cautious and conservative, something that drives us Democrats nuts.
2. Very little will change. We went into the election season with a Democratic president, Republican House, and Democratic Senate. Six billion dollars were spent on TV ads telling you what morons and crooks their opponents were. We came out of the election with a Democratic president, Republican House, and Democratic Senate. Roughly 59 million people voted for Obama, 57 million people for Mitt. Unfortunately, I think you would have gotten about the same results if it had been Obama’s dog vs. Mitt’s shoes. We all have chosen our “team” and very little changes us (certainly not the facts, data, evidence, thinking, etc.)
3. We are more alike than we are different. I got this one from Obama’s acceptance speech. It was stunningly good – too bad it came on at 2:30 in the morning. I kept thinking, “Where has this eloquent, inspirational guy been? I have not seen this guy since Denver in 2008.” Maybe that explains why Obama was such an inept loser as a candidate — he spent all his time on the acceptance speech that nobody saw! Anyway, he pointed out a number of areas where there is clear bipartisan support including improving our educational system, election reform, tax code reform, and reducing the deficit. There are definitely things that can be done that would please everyone. Get together and do them!
Now, on the other side of this, you Republicans need to do a little self-reflecting. You had an incredibly vulnerable president and you could not win. In most other Western countries, the incumbent leader lost because of the poor economy (which also should give you a hint about how much the president really has to do with the economy).
You had a weak candidate. I understand — I am from the party of Kerry, and Gore, and Dukakis! Remember that everyone hated Mitt coming out of the primaries. However, he was less objectionable than Newt, Herman Cain, and that crazy nut job from Texas who did not believe in science. Romney was weak and he still managed to make it close.
Now, unfortunately for you, if you do not make a few changes you are going to lose the next dozen elections. But we need you. We need smart Republicans. Nobody wants the Democrats in charge of everything and the same goes for the Republicans. That is a prescription for getting a lot of dumb ideas passed. We need gridlock and arguing and filibuster. The less our leaders can do, the better off we are. Here are a few ideas to get you guys to 270 in the upcoming elections. Don’t worry, it is not an MSNBC list. I got a couple of these from George W. Bush. Remember him?
1. Shared sacrifice. I think everyone agrees that our deficit must be reduced. That means sacrifice from everybody. Young and old. Rich and poor. Union and non. Don’t try to blow smoke in my direction that the “job creators” need to keep a little extra cash to trickle down to others. Ain’t gonna happen. Bankers don’t need extra. Neither do lawyers, union leaders, or baseball stars. Everyone pays.
And for you Tea Partiers, that may mean raising taxes. I totally agree with you that we need to pull the plug on spend, spend, spend. But occasionally you have to pay the bill for two unfunded wars, disaster relief, veterans’ care, fire and police, and a decent road on which to get to work. Everyone pays.
2. Stop telling people what to do. How can a party that so perfectly understands the importance of a limited government role in business, so misunderstand the same importance when it comes to social issues? Nobody wants to be told what to do. Stop having old guys telling women what they should feel when they are raped. Chill the abortion rhetoric. Abortions have dropped dramatically for reasons that have very little to do with the policies of the government. Stop shoving Christianity down our throats and leave gay people the hell alone! Every one of you conservatives has the perfect right to lead a moral upstanding Norman Rockwell lifestyle. Live one. Be an excellent, loving role model. We need that! You will get more converts that way than by passing an amendment telling others what they can and cannot do.
3. Steal a few ideas to appeal to young non-white voters. The electorate is changing. If you keep on the current path, the Democrats are going to win even if they run a slate of lunkheads out there. We need you. Bill Clinton made a lot of hay by co-opting (i.e., stealing) the Republican model of welfare reform. Obama seems to get this with his focus on military families and deadly drones. Have something that appeals to the new voters – they are looking for it. Maybe sensible immigration reform. How about some type of student loan enhancement or forgiveness? We all would like some sort of safety net around Social Security and Medicare. Grab some old doddering Democrat and take the lead on this issue. You will trounce Hillary in 2016.
Again, don’t give up. We need you. I know you love your country. So do we. We have got to find a way to work together. And for God’s sake, don’t kill Big Bird!
Brett L. Beck is a professor of Psychology at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. For the past 30 years he has taught students at the high school, college, and graduate school levels. He is co-author of the book, “Surviving College: A Real World Experience.” He lives in Santa Rosa Beach.