Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Message to Tcotters On Twitter: Get Over It Already

Not that I don't say that with love. But I really think it's time you guys worked through the five stages of grief you've been going through over the election. You know: Shock, Anger, Blame, and Denial - and finally accept that Barack Obama is our President.

(For those of you not hip to Twitter lingo, tcot is a "hashtag" or group follow symbol, short for Top Conservatives on Twitter - who have recently launched a website called tcotreport. This article, written from the contrarian view, is for them.)

That doesn't mean you have to love our new Pres. God knows, there was no love lost from Democrats for President Bush (or President Reagan, for that matter). But there's going to be no sudden scandal proving that Obama’s not a US citizen (that issue's been, shall we say, Supremely settled), no flare-up of William Ayers being invited over to torch the White House curtains, no central command order for the federal government to go around knocking on doors to confiscate your guns, resulting in a popular revolt and governmental overthrow. No, Obama is here to stay for at least the next three plus some odd years, presiding over a rather middle-of-the-road/left-of-center Administration. Wouldn’t it be better to learn to live – and dare I suggest – work with him?

I know from experience this is hard to do. After President Bush was re-elected in 2004, Democrats went through the same period of disbelief, anger, and depression. Sites and movements popped up everywhere saying "it's not my fault." And Democrats even today are loath to credit President Bush with some of his clear successes - for instance, his fight against AIDS in Africa, and especially having the fortitude to correct early mistakes in Iraq and not give up on the surge, even in the face of the war's supreme unpopularity. You are right to point out that these are clear Bush triumphs and that catcalling from the other side of the aisle has distorted the view of both the successes and mistakes of the past eight years.

Obama is a different sort of President and so his successes, and his mistakes, will be different than were Bush's. But I think, as President, he needs to be given some benefit of the doubt - some ability to set policy and show success before the catcalling about failure begins. Certainly Republicans called for such benefit to be given to President Bush. And surely the argument that conservatives made about how supporting the President during time of war is critical for the sake of America, also applies to supporting the President during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And yes, of course, the far left slung some nasty invective against the last President. But surely, as principled conservatives, shouldn’t engaging in tit-for-tat (they hate Bush so we hate Obama) be above you? If you can't show that you are made of sterner stuff and can be bigger than the far left, then where are your vaunted principles?

Now, with that, of course I will be accused of wanting to sing "kumbaya" or some sad refrain of "can't we all get along." Listen, I know there are deep philosophical disagreements between left and right on issues of size of government, science versus belief, the role of the courts vis-à-vis civil rights, interpretation of the Constitution. Those disagreements aren't going away. And they shouldn't. But testing those beliefs in the sphere of public opinion is what our Democracy is all about. And I think the Founding Fathers set up a pretty well working, self-correcting system, that lets the country steer more right, left, or center as the shifting winds of history carry us to different crises. Clearly, this is a time that has the country steering back to the left. But as it does so, what I'm saying is, the Democrats still need you. They need you to engage your ideas, not your invective and resentment. For invective and resentment will only hurt the Republican Party - and in the long run, a disabled Republican party will hurt the Democrats, too.

So this is what I mean when I talk of bipartisanship. Not that we give up our principles. Not that every solution necessitate a watering down of ideas to some ineffective compromise. No, what I mean is that we get over it - we get past the name calling and invective, we accept the leadership we have, we recognize that people out of power tend not to remain so forever, and we agree to participate in a dialogue with each other with an American spirit of cooperation. We recognize that our ideas need to not only be put forth but be made convincing to the larger public, that sometimes our principles will lose out, that we can accept that, that we can argue and still retain respect for each other's positions. It's about putting what's best for the country ahead of what's best for our political position and special interests, about knowing that sometimes we may be wrong and our opinions may need to change, while sometimes we should hold out when being right also fits into the reality of the moment, and knowing how to judge the difference between the two. As President Obama himself said on Tuesday, “what we need in Washington are not more political tactics – we need more good ideas. We don't need more point-scoring – we need more problem-solving.” It’s about taking the best ideas wherever they may come from, right or left, to address pressing needs identified by the public in this election: the economy, health care, education, and energy. It's about changing the nature of the conversation, not the nature of our philosophies.

And if President Obama isn’t your spokesman, then listen to President Bush, who said recently, "I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him [Obama.]…. I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office."

Naturally, you may not agree with this approach, and you possibly won't agree that any of these issues are pressing needs at all. Bipartisanship is a matter of perspective. All I can say is that the election and opinion polls support the idea that addressing these issues effectively is top of mind of most Americans. Ignore them at your own peril. And I'm not asking for everyone to become bipartisan, either. We need a right as much as we need a left. All I'm saying is that we need a right that doesn't just talk to itself, but also addresses those in the middle and on the left. Otherwise, you hurt no one’s prospects but your own. And the only place to start a conversation is to first have some respect for the people you're talking to.

My sense is that most of the people on tcot are willing to do that; those of us here at are willing to do the same. So let's get past the Obama boogie-man refrain, accept that he’s our leader – faults and all – for at least a while longer, dealing with the issues identified in this election. And let’s start moving the conversation forward.

No comments: