When the holiday season comes around I try to tune out the unending political rancor, and realize just how caustic it is when the season dissipates and it returns to the forefront. It is true that most people don’t follow these things or give them much attention, but those who do are usually angry for one reason or another, or upset about something, or fearful of what may happen, even though it often never occurs. For me the recent election and its aftermath constituted a distraction from other things I’d rather be focusing on, and never intended to give it as much attention as I have. I’d rather stay disinterested, but before moving on I’d like to reiterate a few ideas.
It is pointless for those on the losing side to try and assign blame for the results, but some silly “explanations” have been put forward. These usually reflect the tendency to try and fit the election outcomes to reinforce something one believed before the election, or to advance a particular agenda. This is followed by a call to get rid of people they don’t like or disagree with. A lot of this has been directed against people with strong religious views, i.e. evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, conservative Catholics, etc. - generally referred to as the “religious right.” A rather large number of people are then tarred with the antics of a minor fringe, and it is suggested that they should be ignored. They say these people have too much influence on social issues, and have alienated other people, who then vote for the other party, having been “driven away.” The fallacy in this is that these votes would otherwise have gone Republican, but there is no evidence to substantiate this claim. It is alleged that “exclusionary rhetoric” (which is often mentioned but rarely specifically identified) is the problem, and therefore this group should be excluded. I don’t share much of the worldview of the religious right, but I know that purging people is no way to build a majority.
Some people now feel under siege and threatened, based upon fears that certain things might happen, usually based upon rhetoric of the other side, rather than the more pragmatic reality any government must deal with. They feel that the country has been lost and America as we have known it is over. I think this is a bit premature, at the very least until 2014, when the outcome will very likely be different. A significant number of people have actually signed secession petitions for their state, which is like picking up your marbles and leaving the game because you lost. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s not a good idea for a number of reasons. First because even most so-called “blue” states are actually geographically predominantly “red” at the county level. Thus, that means ceding away most of the territory in those states and abandoning the people who live in those counties. Second, over 600,000 died in a war to preserve the union and it is a disgrace to their memories. Third, assuming these states actually did secede, soon enough there would be divisions within those states, in terms of government and opposition; this is inherent in the political process.
Election outcomes have been far worse. When I was a fifteen years old I poured my heart and soul into Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. When he lost I was heartbroken, at what I thought was the triumph of socialism and the end of our world. I recall being at the NY Conservative party office (because the Republican party establishment didn’t support Goldwater) on election night. Women were crying and guys were cursing the television at every smirk that appeared on Walter Cronkite’s face. The results then were a rout; there were losses everywhere, from congress to the state legislatures, and majorities left virtually nowhere. That was a time when communism seemed to be advancing all over the world, and socialism did seem to be the wave of the future, and our opposition seemed hopeless. But history turned out very differently.
For things are seldom as bad as they seem, nor as good as we would like them to be. Much of the despondency (or triumphalism on the other side) I’m hearing in the aftermath of last year’s election is premature. Many have given this election a portent that is unwarranted, often based upon expectations that are unlikely to be realized. On the surface, a recent Gallup poll showing that “socialism” was now viewed positively by 39% of Americans ought to be worrying, until you look a little deeper. By the same survey apparently 25% of “conservatives” and 23% of Republicans also viewed socialism positively. What this tells me is that when it comes to political terminology most people are clueless. Maybe they think “socialism” means social media like Facebook? This makes one realize that the problem really may be less the other “side,” than a situation of general stupidity. You have to wonder what all the political effort and conflict means in the end when much of the public is at best, vaguely aware. Clearly there is yet much to be learned out there and that is something all sides ought to agree on.